A Question of Upbringing - Anthony Powell

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					   ANTHONY POWELL


A QUESTION OF UPBRINGING



             A NOVEL




               Book 1

     A Dance to the Music of Time
HEINEMANN : LONDON
1
THE MEN AT WORK at the corner of the
street had made a kind of camp for themselves,
where, marked out by tripods hung with red
hurricane-lamps, an abyss in the road led down
to a network of subterranean drain-pipes.
Gathered round the bucket of coke that burned
in front of the shelter, several figures were
swinging arms against bodies and rubbing
h a n d s together with large, pantomimic
g e s t u r e s : like comedians giving formal
expression to the concept of extreme cold. One
of them, a spare fellow in blue overalls, taller
than the rest, with a jocular demeanour and
long, pointed nose like that of a Shakespearian
clown, suddenly stepped forward, and as if
performing a rite, cast some substance –
apparently the remains of two kippers, loosely
wrapped in newspaper – on the bright coals of
the fire, causing flames to leap fiercely upward,
smoke curling about in eddies of the north-east
wind. As the dark fumes floated above the
houses, snow began to fall gently from a dull
sky, each flake giving a small hiss as it reached
t he bucket. The flames died down again; and
the men, as if required observances were for
the moment at an end, all turned away from
the fire, lowering themselves laboriously into
the pit, or withdrawing to the shadows of their
tarpaulin shelter. The grey, undecided flakes
continued to come down, though not heavily,
while a harsh odour, bitter and gaseous,
penetrated the air. The day was drawing in. For
some reason, the sight of snow descending on
fire always makes me think of the ancient world
– legionaries in sheepskin warming themselves
at a brazier: mountain altars where offerings
glow between wintry pillars; centaurs with
torches cantering beside a frozen sea –
scat t e r e d, unco-ordinated shapes from a
fabulous past, infinitely removed from life; and
yet bringing with them memories of things real
and imagined. These classical projections, and
something in the physical attitudes of the men
themselves as they turned from the fire,
suddenly suggested Poussin’s scene in which
the Seasons, hand in hand and facing outward,
tread in rhythm to the notes of the lyre that the
winged and naked greybeard plays. The image
of Time brought thoughts of mortality: of
human beings, facing outward like the Seasons,
moving hand in hand in intricate measure:
stepping slowly, methodically, sometimes a
trifle awkwardly, in evolutions that take
recognisable shape: or breaking into seemingly
meaningless     gyrations,    while     partners
disappear only to reappear again, once more
giving pattern to the spectacle: unable to
control the melody, unable, perhaps, to control
the steps of the dance. Classical associations
made me think, too, of days at school, where so
many forces, hitherto unfamiliar, had become in
due course uncompromisingly clear.

                       *

As winter advanced in that river valley, mist
used to rise in late afternoon and spread over
the flooded grass; until the house and all the
outskirts of the town were enveloped in
opaque, chilly vapour, tinted like cigar-smoke.
The house looked on to other tenement-like
structures, experiments in architectural
insignificance, that intruded upon a central
concentration of buildings, commanding and
antiquated, laid out in a quadrilateral, though
irregular, style. Silted-up residues of the years
smouldered uninterruptedly – and not without
melancholy – in the maroon brickwork of these
medieval closes: beyond the cobbles and
archways of which (in a more northerly
direction) memory also brooded, no less
enigmatic and inconsolable, among water-
meadows and avenues of trees: the sombre
demands of the past becoming at times almost
suffocating in their insistence.
    Running westward in front of the door, a
metalled road continued into open country of a
coarser sort than these gothic parklands –
fields: railway arches: a gas-works: and then
more fields – a kind of steppe where the
climate seemed at all times extreme: sleet:
wind: or sultry heat; a wide territory, loosely
enclosed by inflexions of the river, over which
the smells of the gasometer, recalled perhaps
by the fumes of the coke fire, would come and
g o with intermittent strength. Earlier in the
month droves of boys could be seen drifting in
bands, and singly, along this trail, migrating
tribes of the region, for ever on the move:
trudging into exile until the hour when damp
clouds began once more to overwhelm the red
houses, and to contort or veil crenellations and
pinnacles beyond. Then, with the return of the
mist, these nomads would reappear again,
straggling disconsolately back to their deserted
habitations. By this stage of the year – exercise
no longer contestable five days a week – the
road was empty; except for Widmerpool, in a
sweater once white and cap at least a size too
small,    hobbling     unevenly,     though with
determination, on the flat heels of spiked
running-shoes. Slowly but surely he loomed
through the dusk towards me as I walked back
– well wrapped-up, I remember – from an
expedition to the High Street. Widmerpool was
known to go voluntarily for “a run” by himself
every afternoon. This was his return trotting
across the plough in drizzle that had been falling
since early school. I had, of course, often seen
him before, because we were in the same
house; even spoken with him, though he was a
bit older than myself. Anecdotes relating to his
acknowledged oddness were also familiar; but
before that moment such stories had not made
him live. It was on the bleak December tarmac
of that Saturday afternoon in, I suppose, the
year 1921 that Widmerpool, fairly heavily built,
thick lips and metal-rimmed spectacles giving
his face as usual an aggrieved expression, first
took coherent form in my mind. As the damp,
insistent cold struck up from the road, two thin
jets of steam drifted out of his nostrils, by
nature much distended, and all at once he
seemed to possess a painful solidarity that talk
a b out him had never conveyed. Something
comfortless and inelegant in his appearance
suddenly impressed itself on the observer, as
stiffly, almost majestically, Widmerpool moved
on his heels out of the mist.
     His status was not high. He had no colours,
and although far from being a dunce, there was
nothing notable about his work. At this or any
other time of year he could be seen training for
any games that were in season: in winter
solitary running, with or without a football: in
summer, rowing “courses” on the river,
breathing heavily, the sweat clouding his thick
lenses, while he dragged his rigger through the
water. So far as I know he never reached even
the semi-finals of the events for which he used
to enter. Most of the time he was alone, and
even when he walked with other boys he
seemed in some way separate from them.
About the house he was more noticeable than in
the open air, because his voice was pitched high
and he articulated poorly: as if tongue were too
big for mouth. This delivery made his words
always appear to protest, a manner of speaking
almost predictable from his face. In addition to
that distinctly noisy manner of utterance, thick
rubber reinforcements on soles and heels
caused his boots – he wore boots more often
than        what Stringham used to call
“Widmerpool’s good sensible shoes” – to squeal
incessantly : their shrill rhythmic bursts of
sound, limited in compass like the notes of a
barbaric orchestra, giving warning of his
approach along the linoleum of distant
passages; their sullen whining dirge seeming
designed to express in musical terms the
mysteries of an existence of toil and abnegation
lived apart from the daily life of the tribe.
Perhaps he sounds a grotesque and conspicuous
figure. In excess, Widmerpool was neither. He
had his being, like many others, in obscurity.
The gap in age caused most of my knowledge of
him to have come second-hand; and, in spite of
this abrupt realisation of him as a person that
took place on that winter evening, he would
have remained a dim outline to me if he had not
at an earlier date, and before my own arrival,
made himself already memorable as a new boy,
by wearing the wrong kind of overcoat.
     At this distance of time I cannot remember
precisely what sort of an overcoat Widmerpool
was said to have worn in the first instance.
Stories about it had grown into legend: so much
so that even five or six years later you might
still occasionally hear an obtrusive or
inappropriate garment referred to as “a
Widmerpool;” and Templer, for example, would
sometimes say: “I am afraid I’m wearing rather
Widmerpool socks to-day,” or, “I’ve bought a
wonderfully Widmerpool tie to go home in.” My
impression     is that the overcoat’s initial
deviation from normal was slight, depending on
the existence or absence of a belt at the back,
the fact that the cut was single- or double-
breasted, or, again, irregularity may have had
something to do with the collar; perhaps the
cloth even, was of the wrong colour or texture.
    As a matter of fact the overcoat was only
remarkable in itself as a vehicle for the
comment it aroused, insomuch that an element
in Widmerpool himself had proved indigestible
to the community. An overcoat (which never
achieved the smallest notoriety) belonging to a
boy called Offord whose parents lived in
Madeira, where they had possibly purchased
the garment, was indeed once pointed out to
me as “very like Widmerpool’s.” There was on
no occasion the           slightest question of
Widmerpool being bullied, or even seriously
ragged about the matter. On the contrary, his
deviation seems scarcely to have been
mentioned to him, except by cruder spirits: the
coat becoming recognised almost immediately
as a traditionally ludicrous aspect of everyday
life. Years later, if you questioned his
contemporaries on the subject, they were
v ague in their answers, and would only laugh
and say that he wore the coat for a couple of
terms; and then, by the time winter came
round again, he was found to possess an
overcoat of a more conventional sort.
     This overcoat gave Widmerpool a lasting
notoriety which his otherwise unscintillating
career at school could never wholly dispel. How
fully he was aware of this reputation it was
hard to say. His behaviour certainly indicated
that he hoped for more substantial credit with
other people than to be known solely on
account of a few months given over to out-of-
the-way dress. If such was his aim, he was
unsuccessful; and the only occasion when I
heard these exertions of his receive some small
amount of public recognition had been about a
month before this, so to speak transcendental,
manifestation of himself to me in the mist.
Everyone had been summoned to the house
library to listen to complaints that Parkinson,
captain of games, wanted to make on the
subject of general slackness. Parkinson, rather
a feeble figure who blushed easily, had ended
his little speech with the words: “It is a pity
that some of you are not as keen as
Widmerpool.” There had been loud laughter at
this. Parkinson himself grinned sheepishly, and,
as usual, went red, as if he had said something
that might be considered, even in his own eyes,
more than a little indecent; lightly touching, as
his habit was, a constellation of spots
accumulated on one of his cheekbones.
    Widmerpool himself had not smiled, though
he could hardly have failed to notice the
laughter. He had stared seriously at his boots
with their thick rubber reinforcements,
apparently trying to avoid any imputation of
priggishness. While he did this, his fingers
twitched. His hands were small and gnarled,
with nails worn short and cracked, as if he
spent his spare time digging with them deep
down into the soil. Stringham had said that the
nails of the saint who had hollowed his own
grave without tools might fairly have competed
against Widmerpool’s in a manicure contest. If
Widmerpool had not developed boils soon after
this crumb of praise had been let fall, he would,
by the end of the season, have scraped into the
house football team. This achievement,
however, was not to be; though from the
moment that his ailment began to abate he was
training again as hard as ever. Some more
popular figure was made twelfth man.
    Still pondering on this vision of Widmerpool,
I entered the house, encountering in the hall its
familiar exhalation of carbolic soap, airing
blankets, and cold Irish stew – almost
welcoming after the fog outside – and mounted
the staircase towards tea. A thick black stripe
of paint divided the upper, and yellow, half of
the wall from the magenta dado beneath.
Above this black line was another, mottled and
undulating, where passers-by, up and down the
stairs, rested arm or shoulder, discolouring the
distemper in a slanting band of grey. Two or
three boys were as usual standing in front of
the notice-board on the first floor, their eyes
fixed on the half-sheets of paper attached by
drawing-pins to the green baize, gazing at the
scrawled lists and regulations as if intent on a
tape-machine liable at any moment to
announce the winner. There was nothing more
recent than one of the recurrent injunctions
emanating from Le Bas, our housemaster,
requiring that all boots should be scraped on
the scraper, and then once more scoured on the
door-mat on entering the hall, to avoid
dispersion of mud throughout the house. On the
corner of this grubby fiat Stringham, some days
before, had drawn a face in red pencil. Several
pairs of eyes were now resting glassily on that
outward protest against the voice of authority.
    Since the beginning of the term I had
messed with Stringham and Templer; and I
w a s already learning a lot from them. Both
were a shade older than myself, Stringham by
about a year. The arrangement was in part a
matter of convenience, dictated by the
domestic economy of the house: in this case the
distribution of teas. I liked and admired
Stringham: Templer I was not yet sure about.
The latter’s boast that he had never read a
book for pleasure in his life did not predispose
me in his favour: though he knew far more than
I of the things about which books are written.
He was also an adept at breaking rules, or
diverting them to ends not intended by those
who had framed them. Having obtained
permission, ostensibly at his parents’ request,
to consult an oculist, Templer was spending
that day in London. It was unlikely that he
would cut this visit short enough to enable him
to be back in time for tea, a meal taken in
Stringham’s room.
    When I came in, Stringham was kneeling in
front of the fire, employing a paper-knife
shaped like a scimitar as a toasting-fork.
Without looking up, he said: “There is a jam
crisis.”
    He was tall and dark, and looked a little like
one of .those stiff, sad young men in ruffs,
w hose long legs take up so much room in
sixteenth-century portraits: or perhaps a
younger – and far slighter – version of
Veronese’s Alexander receiving the children of
Darius after the Battle of Issus: with the same
high forehead and suggestion of hair thinning a
bit at the temples. His features certainly
seemed to belong to that epoch of painting: the
faces in Elizabethan miniatures, lively,
obstinate, generous, not very happy, and quite
relentless. He was an excellent mimic, and,
although he suffered from prolonged fits of
melancholy, he talked a lot when one of these
splenetic fits was not upon him: and ragged
with extraordinary violence when excited. He
played cricket well enough to rub along: football
he took every opportunity of avoiding. I
accepted the piece of toast he held out towards
me.
    “I bought some sausages.”
    “Borrow the frying-pan again. We can do
them over the fire.”
    The room contained two late eighteenth-
c e n t u r y coloured   prints of racehorses
(Trimalchio and The Pharisee, with blue-
chinned jockeys) which hung above a picture,
cut out of one of the illustrated weeklies and
framed in passe-partout, of Stringham’s sister
at her wedding; the bridegroom in khaki
uniform with one sleeve pinned to his tunic.
Over the fireplace was a large, and distinctly
florid, photograph of Stringham’s mother, with
whom he lived, a beauty, and an heiress, who
had remarried the previous year after parting
from Stringham’s father. She was a South
African. Stuck in the corner of the frame was a
snapshot of the elder Stringham, an agreeable-
looking man in an open shirt, smoking a pipe
with the sun in his eyes. He, too, had remarried,
and taken his second, and younger, wife, a
Frenchwoman, to Kenya. Stringham did not
often talk about his home, and in those days
that was all I knew about his family; though
Templer had once remarked that “in that
direction there was a good deal of money
available,” adding that Stringham’s parents
moved in circles that lived “at a fairly rapid
pace.”
    I had been so struck by the conception of
Widmerpool,       disclosed almost as a new
incarnation, shortly before on the road in front
o f the house, that I described, while the
sausages cooked, the manner in which he had
materialised in a series of jerks out of the
shadows, bearing with him such tokens of
despondency. Stringham listened, perforating
each of the sausages with the scimitar. He said
slowly: “Widmerpool suffers – or suffered –
from contortions of the bottom. Dickinson told
me that, in the days when the fags used to
parade in the library at tea-time, they were all
standing by the wall one evening when
suddenly there were inarticulate cries. Owing
to this infirmity of his, Widmerpool’s legs had
unexpectedly given way beneath him.”
    “Did he fall?”
    “He clung to the moulding of the wall, his
feet completely off the ground.”
    “What next?”
    “He was carted off.”
    “I see. Have we any mustard?”
    “Now I’ll tell you what I saw happen last
summer,” Stringham went on, smiling to
himself, and continuing to pierce the sausage.
“Peter Templer and I had – for an
unaccountable reason – been watching the tail-
end of some cricket, and had stopped for a
drink on the way back. We found Widmerpool
standing by himself with a glass of lemonade in
front of him. Some of the Eleven were talking
and ragging at the far end of the counter and a
skinned banana was thrown. This missed its
target and hit Widmerpool. It was a bull’s-eye.
The banana was over-ripe and it burst all over
his face, knocking his spectacles sideways. His
cap came off and he spilt most of the lemonade
down the front of his clothes.”
    “Characteristic of the Eleven’s throwing-in.”
    “Budd himself was responsible. Widmerpool
took out his handkerchief and began to clean up
the mess. Budd came down the shop, still
laughing, and said: “Sorry, Widmerpool. That
banana wasn’t intended for you.” Widmerpool
was obviously astonished to hear himself
addressed by name, and so politely, by no less a
person than the Captain of the Eleven – who
could only have known what Widmerpool was
called on account of the famous overcoat. Budd
stood there smiling, showing a lot of those film-
star teeth of his, and looking more than ever
like the hero of an adventure story for boys.”
    “That noble brow.”
    “It doesn’t seem to help him to pile up
runs,” said Stringham, “any more than do those
fine cutting shots of his which photograph so
well.”
    He paused and shook his head, apparently
in sadness at the thought of Budd’s deficiencies
as a cricketer; and then continued: “Anyway,
Budd – exuding charm at every pore – said:
‘I’m afraid I’ve made you in a bit of a mess,
Widmerpool,’ and he stood there inspecting the
havoc he had just caused. Do you know an
absolutely slavish look came into Widmerpool’s
face. ‘I don’t mind,’ he said, ‘I don’t mind at all,
Budd. It doesn’t matter in the least.’”
    Stringham’s dexterity at imitating the
manner in which Widmerpool talked was
remarkable. He stopped the narrative to put
some bread into the fat in which the sausages
were frying, and, when this was done, said: “It
was as if Widmerpool had experienced some
secret and awful pleasure. He had taken off his
spectacles and was wiping them, screwing up
his eyes, round which there were still traces of
banana. He began to blow on the glasses and to
rub them with a great show of good cheer. The
effect was not at all what might have been
hoped. In fact all this heartiness threw the most
appalling gloom over the shop. Budd went back
to his friends and finished whatever he was
eating, or drinking, in deathly silence. The other
members of the Eleven – or whoever they were
– stopped laughing and began to mutter self-
consciously to themselves about future fixtures.
All the kick had gone out of them. I have never
seen anything like it. Then Budd picked up his
bat and pads and gloves and other belongings,
and said: ‘I must be getting along now. I’ve got
the Musical Society tonight,’ and there was the
usual business of ‘Good night, Bill, good night
—’”
    “‘Good night, Guy… good night, Stephen…
good night, John… good night, Ronnie… good
night, George…’”
    “Exactly,” said Stringham. “‘Good night,
Eddie… g o o d night, Simon… good night,
Robin…’ and so on and so forth until they had
all said good night to each other collectively and
individually, and shuffled off together, arm-in-
arm. Templer wanted to move because he had
to go down-town before lock-up; so we left
Widmerpool to himself. He had put on his
spectacles again, and straightened his cap, and
as we went through the door he was rubbing his
gritty little knuckles together, still smiling at his
great encounter with Budd.”
     The account of this incident, illustrating
another of Widmerpool’s aspects, did not at
that moment make any deep impression on me.
I t was like a number of other anecdotes on the
subject that circulated from time to time,
differing only in the proficiency with which
Stringham told his stories. My own renewed
awareness of Widmerpool’s personality seemed
to me closer and more real. Stringham,
however, had not finished with the matter. He
said: “As we walked past the fives courts,
T e m p l e r remarked: ‘I’m glad that ass
Widmerpool fielded a banana with his face.’ I
asked why he did not like him – for after all
there is little harm in the poor old boy – and it
turned out that it was Widmerpool who got
Akworth sacked.”
    Stringham paused to allow this statement to
sink in, while he arranged the sausages in a new
pattern. I could not recall at all clearly what
Akworth’s story had been: though I
remembered that he had left the school under a
cloud soon after my arrival there, and that
various rumours regarding his misdoings had
been current at the time.
    “Akworth tried to set fire to his room, didn’t
he? Or did he steal everything that was not
nailed down?”
    “He well may have done both,” said
Stringham; “but he was principally shot out for
sending a note to Peter Templer. Widmerpool
intercepted the note and showed it to Le Bas. I
must admit that it was news to me when Peter
told me.”
    “And that was why Peter had taken against
Widmerpool?”
    “Not only that but Widmerpool got hold of
Peter and gave him a tremendous jaw on
morals.”
    “That must have been very good for him.”
    “The jaw went on for so long, and
Widmerpool came so close, that Templer said
that he thought Widmerpool was going to start
something himself.”
    " Peter always thinks that about
everybody.”
    “I agree his conceit is invincible,” said
Stringham, turning the sausages thoughtfully,
as if contemplating Templer’s vanity.
    “Did Widmerpool start anything?” I asked.
    “It is a grim thought, isn’t it?”
    “What is the answer?”
    Stringham laughed. He said: “Peter made
an absolutely typical Templer remark when I
asked him the same question. He said: ‘No,
thank God, but he moved about the room
breathing heavily like my sister’s white
pekinese. Did you see how pleased he was just
now to be noticed by Budd? He looked as if he
had just been kissed under the mistletoe.
Bloody fool. He’s so wet you could shoot snipe
off him.’ Can you imagine a more exquisitely
Templer phrase? Anyhow, that is how poor old
Widmerpool looks to our little room-mate.”
    “But what is he like really?”
    “If you are not sure what Widmerpool is
like,” said Stringham, “you can’t do better than
have another look at him. You will have an
opportunity at prayers tonight. These sausages
are done.”
    He stopped speaking, and, picking up the
paper-knife again, held it upright, raising his
eyebrows, because at that moment there had
been a kind of scuffling outside, followed by a
knock on the door: in itself a surprising sound.
A second later a wavering, infinitely sad voice
from beyond said: “May I come in?”
    Obviously this was no boy: the approach
sounded unlike a master’s. The hinge creaked,
and, as the door began to open, a face,
deprecatory and enquiring, peered through the
narrow space released between the door and
the wall. There was an impression of a slight
moustache, grey or very fair, and a well-worn,
rather sporting tweed suit. I realised all at once,
not without apprehension, that my Uncle Giles
was attempting to enter the room.
    I had not seen my uncle since the end of the
war, when he had been wearing some sort of
uniform, though not one of an easily
recognisable service. This sudden appearance
i n Stringham’s room was an unprecedented
incursion: the first time that he had found his
way here. He delayed entry for a brief period,
pressing the edge of the door against his head,
the other side of which touched the wall: rigid,
as if imprisoned in a cruel trap specially
designed to catch him and his like: some
ingenious snare, savage in mechanism, though
at the same time calculated to preserve from
injury the skin of such rare creatures. Uncle
Giles’s skin was, in point of fact, not easily
injured, though experience of years had made
him cautious of assuming as a matter of course
that his company would be welcome anywhere
– anywhere, at least, where other members of
his family might be gathered together. At first,
therefore, he did not venture to advance
farther into the room, meekly conscious that his
unexpected arrival might, not unreasonably, be
regarded by the occupants as creating a pivot
for potential embarrassment.
    “I was just passing through on the way to
Reading,” he said. “Thought I might look you
up.”
    He stood by the door and appeared a little
dazed, perhaps overcome by the rich smell of
sausages that permeated the atmosphere of the
room: possibly reminding him of what might
easily have been a scanty luncheon eaten
earlier in the day. Why he should be going to
Reading was unguessable. If he had come from
London, this could hardly be termed “on the
way;” but it might well be that Uncle Giles had
not come from London. His locations were not,
as a rule, made public. Stringham stood up and
pushed the sausages on to a plate.
    “This is my uncle – Captain Jenkins.”
    Checking the sausages with the paper-knife,
Stringham said: “I’ll get another cup. You’ll
have tea with us, won’t you?”
    “Thank you, I never take tea,” said Uncle
Giles. “People who eat tea waste half the
afternoon. Never wanted to form the habit.” He
added: “Of course, I’m not speaking of your
sort of tea.”
    He looked round at us, as if for sympathy, a
bit uncertain as to whether or not this
declaration expressed a justifiable attitude
towards tea; unsure – and with good reason – if
an assertion that he made efforts, however
small, to avoid waste of time would prove easily
credible, even in the company in which he now
found himself. We borrowed a hard chair from
next door, and he sat down, blowing his nose
into a bandana handkerchief in a series of little
grunts.
    “Don’t let me keep you fellows from your
sausages,” he said. “They will be getting cold.
They look damned good to me.”
    Neat,     and     still slightly military in
appearance – though he had not held a
commission for at least twenty years and
“captain” was probably a more or less honorary
rank, gazetted to him by himself and the better
disposed of his relations – my father’s brother
was now about fifty. His arrival that night made
it clear that he had not emigrated: a suggestion
put forward at one moment to explain his
disappearance for a longer period than usual
from public view. There had also been some
rather uneasy family jokes regarding the
possibility of his having overstepped the limits
set by the law in the transaction of everyday
business, some slip in financial dealings that
might account for an involuntary absence from
the scene; for Uncle Giles had been relegated
by most of the people who knew him at all well
to that limbo where nothing is expected of a
person, and where more than usually
outrageous actions are approached, at least
conversationally, as if they constituted a series
of practical jokes, more or less enjoyable,
according to where responsibility for clearing
up matters might fall. The curious thing about
persons regarding whom society has taken this
largely self-defensive measure is that the
existence of the individual himself reaches a
pitch when nothing he does can ever be
accepted as serious. If he commits suicide, or
murder, only the grotesque aspects of the
event dominate the circumstances: on the
whole, avoidance of such major issues being an
integral part of such a condition. My uncle was
a good example of the action of this law; though
naturally I did not in those days see him with
anything like this clearness of vision. If Reading
were his destination, there could be no hint of
immediate intention to leave the country: and,
unless on ticket-of-leave, he was evidently
under no sort of legal restraint. He finished
blowing his nose, pushed the handkerchief back
up his sleeve, and, using without facetious
implication a then popular catchword, said:
“How’s your father?”
    “All right.”
    “And your mother?”
    “Very well.”
    “Good,” said Uncle Giles, as if it were a relief
to him personally that my parents were well,
even when the rest of the world might feel
differently on the same matter.
    There was a pause. I asked how his own
health had been, at which he laughed scornfully.
    “Oh, me,” he said. “I’ve been about the
same. Not growing any younger. Trouble with
the old duodenal. I rather wanted to get hold of
your father about signing some papers. Is he
still in Paris? I suppose so.”
     “That bit of the Conference is finished.”
     “Where is he?”
     “London.”
     “On leave?”
     “Yes.”
     “The War Office haven’t decided where
they are going to send him?”
     “No.”
     My uncle looked put out at this piece of
news. It was most unlikely, hardly conceivable,
that he really intended to impose his company
on my father, who had for many years
discouraged close association with his brother,
except when possessed with an occasional and
uncontrollable desire to tell Uncle Giles to his
face what he thought of him, a mood that rarely
lasted more than thirty-six hours; by the end of
which period of time the foredoomed inefficacy
of any such contact made itself clear.
     “In London, is he?” said Uncle Giles,
wrinkling the dry, reddish skin at the sides of
his nostrils, under which a web of small grey
veins etched on his nose seemed to imply
preliminary outlines for a game of noughts-
and-crosses. He brought out a leather
cigarette-case and – before I could prevent him
– lighted a cigarette.
     “Visitors are not really supposed to smoke
here.”
     “Oh, aren’t they?” said Uncle Giles. He
looked very surprised. “Why not?”
     “Well, if the place smells of smoke, you can’t
tell if someone else smokes too.”
     “Of course you can’t,” said Uncle Giles
readily, blowing, outward a long jet of smoke.
He seemed puzzled.
     “Le Bas might think a boy had been
smoking.”
     “Who is Le Bas?”
     “Our housemaster.”
     How he had managed to find the house if he
were ignorant of Le Bas’s identity was
mysterious: even inexplicable. It was, however,
in keeping with the way my uncle conducted his
life that he should reach his destination without
knowing the name of the goal. He continued to
take small puffs at his cigarette.
     “I see,” he said.
     “Boys aren’t allowed to smoke.”
     “Quite right. Stunts the growth. It is a great
mistake to smoke before you are twenty-one.”
     Uncle Giles straightened his back and
squared his shoulders. One had the impression
that he was well aware that young people of the
day could scarcely attempt to compete with the
rigorous standards that had governed his own
youth. He shook his head and flicked some ash
on to one of the dirty plates.
     “It is a hundred to one Le Bas won’t come
in,” said Stringham. “I should take a chance on
it.”
     “Take a chance on what?” Uncle Giles
asked.
     “On smoking.”
     “You mean I really ought to put this out?”
     “Don’t bother.”
     “Most certainly I shall bother,” said Uncle
Giles. “I should not dream of breaking a rule of
that sort. Rules are made to be obeyed,
howev er foolish they may sometimes seem.
The question is where had I best put this, now
that the regulation has been broken?”
    By the time my uncle had decided to
extinguish the cigarette on the sole of his shoe,
and throw the butt into the fire, there was not
much left of it. Stringham collected the ash,
which had by now found its way into several
receptacles, brushing all of this also into the
cinders. For the rest of tea, Uncle Giles, who,
for the time being at least, had evidently
dismissed from his mind the question of
discussing arrangements for meeting my
father, discoursed, not very lucidly, on the
possibility of a moratorium in connection with
German reparations and the fall of the mark.
Uncle Giles’s sympathies were with the
Germans. “They work hard,” he said.
“Therefore they have my respect.” Why he had
suddenly turned up in this manner was not yet
clear. When tea came to an end he muttered
about wanting to discuss family matters, and,
after saying good-bye – for my uncle, almost
effusively – to Stringham, he followed me along
the passage.
    “Who was that?” he asked, when we were
alone together.
    As a rule Uncle Giles took not the slightest
interest in anyone or anything except himself
and his own affairs – indeed was by this time all
but incapable of absorbing even the smallest
particle of information about others, unless
such information had some immediate bearing
on his own case. I was therefore surprised
when he listened with, a show of comparative
attention to what I could tell him about
Stringham’s family. When I had finished, he
remarked:
    “I used to meet his grandfather in Cape
Town.”
    “What was he doing there?”
    “His mother’s father, that was. He made a
huge fortune. Not a bad fellow. Knew all the
right people, of course.”
    “Diamonds?”
    I was familiar with detective stories in
which South African millionaires had made
their money in diamonds.
    “Gold,” said Uncle Giles, narrowing his eyes.
    My uncle’s period in South Africa was one of
the several stretches of his career not too
closely examined by other members of his
family – or, if examined, not discussed – and I
hoped that he might be about to give some
account of experiences I had always been
warned not to enquire into. However, he said
no more than: “I saw your friend’s mother once
when she was married to Lord Warrington and
a very good-looking woman she was.”
    “Who was Lord Warrington?”
    “Much older than she was. He died. Never a
good life, Warrington’s. And so you always have
tea with young Stringham?”
    “And another boy called Templer.”
    “Where was Templer?” asked Uncle Giles,
rather suspiciously, as if he supposed that
someone might have been spying on him
unawares, or that he had been swindled out of
something.
    “In London, having his eyes seen to.”
    “What is wrong with his eyes?”
    “They ache when he works.”
    My uncle thought over this statement,
which conveyed in Templer’s own words his
personal diagnosis of this ocular complaint.
Uncle Giles was evidently struck by some
similarity of experience, because he was silent
for several seconds. I spoke more about
Stringham, but Uncle Giles had come to the end
of his faculty for absorbing statements
regarding other people. He began to tap with
his knuckles on the window-pane, continuing
this tattoo until I had given up attempting, so
far as I knew it, to describe Stringham’s
background.
    “It is about the Trust,” said Uncle Giles,
coming abruptly to the end of his drumming,
and adopting a manner at once accusing and
seasoned with humility.
    The Trust, therefore, was at the bottom of
this visitation. The Trust explained this arrival
by night in winter. If I had thought harder,
such an explanation might have occurred to me
earlier; but at that age I cannot pretend that I
felt greatly interested in the Trust, a subject so
often ventilated in my hearing. Perhaps the
enormous amount of time and ingenuity that
had been devoted by other members of my
family     to examining the Trust from its
innumerable aspects had even decreased for
me its intrinsic attraction. In fact the topic
bored me. Looking back, I can understand the
fascination that the Trust possessed for my
relations: especially for those, like Uncle Giles,
who benefited from it to a greater or lesser
degree. In those days the keenness of their
interest seemed something akin to madness.
    The money came from a great-aunt, who
had tied it up in such a way as to raise what
were, I believe, some quite interesting
questions of legal definition. In addition to this,
one of my father’s other brothers, Uncle
Martin, also a beneficiary, a bachelor, killed at
the second battle of the Marne, had greatly
complicated matters, although there was not a
great deal of money to divide, by leaving a will
of his own devising, which still further secured
the capital without making it absolutely clear
who should enjoy the interest. My father and
Uncle Giles had accordingly come to a
“gentleman’s agreement” on the subject of their
respective shares (which brought in about one
hundred and eighty-five pounds annually, or
possibly nearly two hundred in a good year);
but Uncle Giles had never been satisfied that he
was receiving the full amount to which he was
by right entitled: so that when times were hard
– which happened about every eighteen
months – he used to apply pressure with a view
to squeezing out a few pounds more than his
agreed portion. The repetition of these tactics,
forgotten for a time and then breaking out
again like one of Uncle Giles’s duodenal ulcers,
had the effect of making my father exceedingly
angry; and, taken in conjunction with the rest of
my uncle’s manner of life, they had resulted in
an almost complete severance of relations
between the two brothers.
    “As you probably know,” said Uncle Giles,
“I owe your father a small sum of money.
Nothing much. Decent of him to have given me
the use of it, all the same. Some brothers
wouldn’t have done as much. I just wanted to
tell him that I proposed to let him have the sum
in question back.”
     This proposal certainly suggested an act to
which, on the face of it, there appeared no valid
objection; but my uncle, perhaps from force of
habit, continued to approach the matter
circumspectly. “It is just a question of the
trustees,” he said once or twice; and he
proceeded to embark on explanations that
seemed to indicate that he had some idea of
presenting through myself the latest case for
the adjustment of his revenue: tacking on
repayment of an ancient debt as a piece of live
bait. Any reason that might have been
advanced earlier for my becoming the medium
in these negotiations, on the grounds that my
father was still out of England, had been utterly
demolished by the information that he was to
be found in London. However, tenacity in
certain directions – notably that of the Trust –
was one of Uncle Giles’s characteristics. He was
also habitually unwilling to believe that altered
circumstances might affect any matter upon
which he had already made up his mind. He
therefore entered now upon a comprehensive
account of the terms of the Trust, his own
pecuniary embarrassment, the forbearance he
had shown in the past – both to his relations
and the world at large – and the reforms he
suggested for the future.
    “I’m not a great business expert,” he said,
“I don’t claim to be a master brain of finance or
anything of that sort. The only training I ever
had was to be a soldier. We know how much use
that is. All the same, I’ve had a bit of
experience in my day. I’ve knocked about the
world and roughed it. Perhaps I’m not quite so
green as I look.”
    Uncle Giles became almost truculent for a
man with normally so quiet a manner when he
said this; as if he expected that I was prepared
to argue that he was indeed “green,” or,
through some other similar failing, unsuited to
run his own affairs. I felt, on the contrary, that
in some ways it had to be admitted that he was
unusually well equipped for looking after
himself: in any case a subject I should not have
taken upon myself to dispute with him. There
was, therefore, nothing to do but agree to pass
on anything he had to say. His mastery of the
hard-luck story was of a kind never achieved
by persons not wholly concentrated on
themselves.
    “Quand même,” he said at the end of a
tremendous parade of facts and figures, “I
suppose there is such a thing as family feeling?”
    I mumbled.
    “After all there was the Jenkins they fought
the War of Jenkins’s Ear about.”
    “Yes.”
    “We are all descended from him.”
    “Not directly.”
    “Collaterally then.”
    “It has never been proved, has it?”
    “What I mean is that he has a relation and
that should keep us together.”
    “Well, our ancestor, Hannibal Jenkins, of
Cwm Shenkin, paid the Hearth Tax in 1674 —”
    Perhaps justifiably, Uncle Giles made a
gesture as if to dismiss pedantry – and
especially genealogical pedantry – in all its
protean shapes: at the same time picking up his
hat. He said: “All I mean is that just because I
am a bit of a radical, it doesn’t mean that I
believe tradition counts for nothing.”
    “Of course not.”
    “Don’t think that for a moment.”
    “Not a bit.”
    “Then you will put it to your father?”
    “All right.”
    “Can you get leave to walk with me as far as
the station?”
    “No.”
    We set off together down the stairs, Uncle
Giles continually stopping on the way to
elaborate points omitted in his earlier
argument. This was embarrassing, as other
boys were hanging about the passages, and I
tried, without success, to hurry him along. The
front door was locked, and Cattle, the porter,
had to be found to obtain the key. For a time
we wandered about in a kind of no-man’s-land
of laundry baskets and coke, until Cattle, more
or less asleep, was at last discovered in the
boot-room.       A   lumbering,      disagreeable
character, he unlocked the door under protest,
letting into the house a cloud of fog. Uncle Giles
reached the threshold and plunged his hand
deep into his trouser, pocket as if in search of a
coin: stood for what seemed an age sunk in
reverie: thought better of an earlier impulse:
and stepped briskly out into the mist with a
curt “Good night to you.” He was instantly
swallowed up in the gloom, and I was left
standing on the steps with Cattle, whose
grousing, silenced for the passage of time
during which there had seemed hope of money
changing hands, now began to rumble again like
the buzz of distant traffic. As I returned slowly
up the stairs, this sound of complaint sank to a
low growling, punctuated with sharp clangs as
the door was once more laboriously locked,
bolted, and chained.
    On the whole it could not be said that one
felt better for Uncle Giles’s visit. He brought
with him some fleeting suggestion, always
welcome at school, of an outside world: though
against this had to be weighed the disturbing
impact of home-life in school surroundings:
even home-life in its diminished and
undomestic embodiment represented by my
uncle. He was a relation: a being who had in him
perhaps some of the same essence that went
towards forming oneself as a separate entity.
Would one’s adult days be spent in worrying
about the Trust? What was he going to do at
Reading? Did he manage to have quite a lot of
fun, or did he live in perpetual hell? These were
things to be considered. Some apology for his
sudden appearance seemed owed to Stringham:
after that, I might try to do some work to be
dealt with over the week-end.
    When I reached the door I heard a
complaining voice raised inside the room.
Listening for a moment, I recognised the tone
as Le Bas’s. He was not best pleased. I went in.
Le Bas had come to find Templer, and was now
making a fuss about the cigarette smoke.
    “Here is Jenkins, sir,” said Stringham. “He
has just been seeing his uncle out of the house.”
    He glanced across at me, putting on an
expression to indicate that the ball was now at
my foot. The room certainly smelt abominably
of smoke when entered from the passage. Le
Bas was evidently pretty angry.
    He was a tall, untidy man, clean-shaven and
bald with large rimless spectacles that gave him
a curiously Teutonic appearance: like a German
priest. Whenever he removed these spectacles
he used to rub his eyes vigorously with the
back of his hand, and, perhaps as a result of this
habit, his eyelids looked chronically red and
sore. On some occasions, especially when
vexed, he had the habit of getting into unusual
positions, stretching his legs far apart and
putting his hands on his hips; or standing at
attention with heels together and feet turned
outwards so far that it seemed impossible that
he should not overbalance and fall flat on his
face. Alternatively, especially when in a good
humour, he would balance on the fender, with
each foot pointing in the same direction. These
postures gave him the air of belonging to some
highly conventionalised form of graphic art: an
oriental god, or knave of playing cards. He
found difficulty with the letter “R,” and spoke –
like Widmerpool – rather as if he were holding
an object about the size of a nut in his mouth.
To overcome this slight impediment he was
careful to make his utterance always slow and
very distinct. He was unmarried.
     “Stringham appears to think that you can
explain, Jenkins, why this room is full of
smoke.”
     “I am afraid my uncle came to see me, sir.
He lit a cigarette without thinking.”
     “Where is your uncle?”
     “I have just been getting Cattle to let him
out of the house.”
     “How did he get in?”
     “I think he came in at the front door, sir. I
am not sure.”
     I watched Stringham, from where he stood
behind Le Bas, make a movement as of one
climbing a rope, following these gestures with
motions of his elbows to represent the beating
of wings, both dumb-shows no doubt intended
t o demonstrate alternative methods of ingress
possibly employed by Uncle Giles.
     “But the door is locked.”
     “I suppose he must have come in before
Cattle shut the door, sir.”
    “You both of you —” he turned towards
Stringham to include him in the indictment “ –
k n o w perfectly well that visitors are not
allowed to smoke in the house.”
    He certainly made it sound a most horrible
offence. Quite apart from all the bother that
this was going to cause, I felt a twinge of regret
that I had not managed to control Uncle Giles
more effectively: insomuch that I had been
brought up to regard any form of allowing him
his head as a display of weakness on the part of
his own family.
    “Of course as soon as he was told, sir …”
    “But why is there this smell?”
    Le Bas spoke as if smoking were bad enough
in all conscience: but that, if people must
smoke, they might at least be expected to do so
without the propagation of perceptible fumes.
Stringham said: “I think the stub – the fag-end,
sir – may have smouldered. It might have been
a T urkish cigarette. I believe they have a
rather stronger scent than Virginian.”
    He looked round the room, and lifted a
cushion from . one of the chairs, shaking his.
head and sniffing. This was not the sort of
conduct to improve a bad situation. Le Bas,
although he disliked Templer, had never
showed any special animus against Stringham
or myself. Indeed Stringham was rather a
favourite of his, because he was quick at
knowing the sources of the quotations that Le
Bas, when in a good temper, liked to make.
However, like most schoolmasters, he was
inclined to feel suspicious of all boys in his house
as they grew older; not because he was in any
sense an unfriendly man, though abrupt and
reserved, but simply on account of the
increased difficulty in handling the daily affairs
of creatures who tended less and less to fit into
a convenient and formalised framework: or, at
least, a framework that was convenient to Le
Bas because he himself had formalised it. That
was how Le Bas’s attitude of mind appeared to
me in later years. At the time of his complaint
about Uncle Giles’s cigarette, he merely
seemed to Stringham and myself a dangerous
lunatic, to be humoured and outwitted.
    “How am I to know that neither of you
smoked too?” he said, sweeping aside the
persistent denials that both of us immediately
offered. “How can I possibly tell?”
    He sounded at the same time angry and
despairing. He said: “You must write a letter to
your uncle, Jenkins, and ask him to give his
word that neither of you smoked.”
    “But I don’t know his address, sir. All I
know is that he was on his way to Reading.”
    “By car?”
    “By train, I think, sir.”
    “Nonsense, nonsense,” said Le Bas. “Not
know your own uncle’s address? Get it from
your parents if necessary. I shall make myself
very objectionable to you both until I see that
letter.”
    He raised his hands from his sides a little
way, and clenched his fists, as if he were about
to leap high into the air like an athlete, or ballet
dancer; and in this taut attitude he seemed to
be considering how best to carry out his threat,
while he breathed heavily inward as if to imbibe
the full savour of sausages and tobacco smoke
that still hung about the room. At that moment
there was a sound of talking, and some
laughter, in the passage. The door was
suddenly flung open, and Templer burst into
the room. He was brought up short by the sight
of Le Bas: in whom Templer immediately called
up a new train of thought.
    “Ah, Templer, there you are. You went to
London, didn’t you? What time did your train
get in this evening?”
    “It was late, sir,” said Templer, who seemed
more than usually pleased with himself, though
aware that there might be trouble ahead: he
dropped his voice a little: “I couldn’t afford a
cab, sir, so I walked.”
    He had a thin face and light blue eyes that
gave out a perpetual and quite mechanical
sparkle: at first engaging: then irritating: and
finally a normal and inevitable aspect of his
features that one no longer noticed. His hair
came down in a sharp angle on the forehead
and his large pointed ears were like those
attributed to satyrs, “a race amongst whom
Templer would have found some interests in
common,” as Stringham had said, when
Templer’s ears had been dignified by someone
with this classical comparison. His eyes flashed
and twinkled now like the lamps of a lighthouse
as he fixed them on Le Bas, while both settled
down to a duel about the railway time-table.
Although Templer fenced with skill, it seemed
pretty clear that he would be forced, in due
course, to admit that he had taken a train later
than that prescribed by regulations. But Le Bas,
who not uncommonly forgot entirely about the
matter in hand, suddenly seemed to lose
interest in Templer’s train and its time of
arrival (just as he had for the moment
abandoned the subject of Uncle Giles’s
cigarette); and he hurried away, muttering
something about Greek unseens. For the
moment we were free of him. Templer sat
down in the arm-chair.
    “Did he come in when you were having a
gasper?” he said. “The room reeks as if camels
had been stabled in it.”
    “You don’t suppose we should be such fools
as to smoke in the house,” said Stringham. “It
was Jenkins’s uncle. But my dear Peter, why do
you always go about dressed as if you were
going to dance up and down a row of naked
ladies singing ‘Dapper Dan was a very handy
man,’ or something equally lyrical? You get
more like an advertisement for gents’ tailoring
every day.”
    “I think it is rather a good get-up for
London,” said Templer, examining a handful of
his suit. “Every item chosen with thought, I can
assure you.”
    Stringham said: “If you’re not careful you
will suffer the awful fate of the man who always
knows the right clothes to wear and the right
shop to buy them at.”
    Templer laughed. He had a kind of natural
jauntiness that seemed to require to be helped
out by more than ordinary attention to what he
wore: a quality that might in the last resort
save him from Stringham’s warning picture of
the dangers of dressing too well. As a matter of
fact, although he used to make fun of him to his
face, Stringham was stimulated, perhaps a little
impressed, by Templer; however often he
might repeat that: “Peter Templer’s affectation
that he has to find time to smoke at least one
pipe a day bores me to death: nor did it cut any
ice with me when he pointed out the empty
half-bottle of whisky he had deposited behind
the conservatory in Le Bas’s garden.” The
previous summer, Stringham and Templer had
managed to attend a race-meeting together one
half-holiday afternoon without being caught.
Such adventures I felt to be a bit above my
head, though I enjoyed hearing about them. I
was, as I have said, not yet sure that I really
liked Templer. His chief subjects of
conversation were clothes, girls, and the
persecutions of Le Bas, who, always sensitive to
the possibility of being ragged, tended to make
himself unnecessarily disagreeable in any
quarter that might reasonably be thought to
arouse special apprehension. Besides this,
Templer could not possibly be looked upon as a
credit to the house. He was not much of a hand
at the sort of games that are played at school
(though his build made him good at tennis and
golf), so that he was in a weak position, being
fairly lazy at work, to withstand prolonged
aggression from a housemaster. Consequently
Templer was involved in a continuous series of
minor rows. The question of the train was
evidently to become the current point for Le
Bas’s attack.
     “Well, that all seems to have blown over for
the moment,” Stringham said. “You ought to
keep your uncles in better order, Jenkins.”
     I explained that Uncle Giles was known for
being impossible to keep in order, and that he
always left trouble in his wake. Templer said: “I
suppose Le Bas will go on pestering about that
train. You know, I used to be a great pet of his.
Now his only object seems to be to get me
sacked.”
     “He ought to be able to bring that off sooner
or later with your help,” said Stringham. “After
all he is not an absolute fool: though pretty near
it.”
     “I believe he was quite an oar in his youth,”
said Templer. “At least he won the Diamond
Sculls. Still, past successes at Henley don’t
make him any more tolerable to deal with as a
housemaster.”
    “He started life as a poet,” Stringham said.
“Did you know that? Years ago, after coming
back from a holiday in Greece, he wrote some
things that he thought were frightfully good. He
showed them to someone or other who pointed
out that, as a matter of fact, they were
frightfully bad. Le Bas never got over it.”
    “I can’t imagine anything more appalling
than a poem by Le Bas,” said Templer, “though
I’m surprised he doesn’t make his pupils learn
them.”
    “Who did he show them to?” I asked.
    “Oh, I don’t know,” said Stringham. “Henry
James, or Robert Louis Stevenson, or someone
like that.”
    “Who on earth told you?”
    “An elderly character who came to lunch. I
believe he is an ambassador somewhere; or
was. He used to run round with the same gang
as Le Bas. He said Le Bas used to be
tremendously promising as a young man. He
was good at everything.”
    “I can’t imagine he was ever much good
with the girls,” said Templer.
     “Maybe not,” said Stringham. “Not
everyone has your singleness of aim. As a
matter of fact do you think Le Bas has any sex
life?”
     “I don’t know about Le Bas,” said Templer,
who had evidently been waiting since his arrival
back from London for the right moment to
make some important announcement about
himself, “but I have. The reason I took the later
train was because I was with a girl.”
     “You devil.”
     “I was a devil, I can assure you.”
     “I suppose we shall have to hear about it,”
said Stringham. “Don’t spare my feelings. Did
you hold hands at the cinema? Where did you
meet?”
     “In the street.”
     “Do you mean you picked her up?”
     “Yes.”
     “Fair or dark?”
     “Fair.”
     “And how was the introduction effected?”
     “She smiled at me.”
     “A tart, in other words.”
    “I suppose she was, in a kind of way,” said
Templer, “but quite young.”
    “You know, Peter, you are just exactly the
sort of boy my parents warned me against.”
    “I went back to her flat.”
    “How did you acquit yourself?”
    “It was rather a success; except that the
scent she used was absolutely asphyxiating. I
was a bit afraid Le Bas might notice it on my
clothes.”
    “Not after the cigarette smoked by
Jenkins’s uncle. Was it a well appointed
apartment?”
    “I admit the accommodation was a bit on
the squalid side,” said Templer. “You can’t have
everything for a quid.”
    “That wasn’t very munificent, was it?”
    “All I had. That was why I had to walk from
the station.”
    “You seem to have been what Le Bas would
call ‘a very unwise young man’.”
    “I see no reason why Le Bas should be
worried by the matter, if he didn’t notice the
scent.”
     “What an indescribably sordid incident,”
said Stringham. “However, let’s hear full
details.”
     “Not if you don’t want to be told them.”
     “We do.”
     Templer was supplying further particulars
when Le Bas appeared in the room again. He
seemed increasingly agitated, and said:
“Templer, I want you to come and show me in
the time-table which train you took. I have
telephoned to the station and have been told
that the one you should have travelled on was
not late – and Jenkins, don’t forget that I shall
expect to see that letter from your uncle by the
end of the week. You had better keep him up to
it, Stringham, as it is just as much in your
interests as his that the matter should be
cleared up.”
     He tore off up the passage with Templer
following behind at a slower pace. Stringham
said: “Peter is crazy. He really will get shot out
sooner or later.”
     Although incomplete, the story of Templer’s
London adventure – to be recapitulated on
countless future occasions – had sufficiently
amplified the incident for its significance to be
inescapably clear to Stringham and myself. This
was a glimpse through that mysterious door,
once shut, that now seemed to stand ajar. It
was as if, sounds of far-off conflict, or the
muffled din of music and shouting, dimly heard
in the past, had now come closer than ever
before. Stringham smiled to himself and
whistled. I think he felt a little uneasy in the
awareness that Templer was one up on him
now. He did not discuss the matter further: I
too had no comment to make before thinking
things over. After a time Templer returned to
the room. He said: “What an infernal nuisance
that man Le Bas is. I think he is going to write
to my father. I particularly do not want trouble
at this moment.”
    “He seems to have developed a mania for
letters flying in all directions,” said Stringham.
“However, I feel competent to deal with his
puny onslaughts. Meanwhile, I should like to
hear more of this unfortunate incident which
you were in the course of describing with such a
wealth of colour. Begin at the beginning,
please.”

                       *

The episode that Stringham continued to call
“Templer’s        unfortunate   incident,”   not
startlingly interesting in itself, somehow
crystallised my impression of Templer’s
character: rather in the same way that seeing
Widmerpool coming home from his “run” had
established a picture of him in my mind, not
different from the earlier perception held there,
but one set in a clearer focus. Templer’s
adventure indicated the lengths to which he
was prepared to go, and behaviour that had
previously seemed to me needless – and even
r a t h e r tiresome – bravado on his part
harmonised with a changing and widening
experience. I found that I suddenly liked him
better. His personality seemed to have fallen
into place. There could be no doubt that he
himself felt a milestone to have been passed;
and, probably for this reason, became in some
ways a quieter, more agreeable, friend. In due
course, though not before the end of the term
had been reached, Le Bas agreed to some sort
of a compromise about the train: Templer
admitting that he had been wrong in not
returning earlier, at the same time producing
evidence to show that alterations in the
timetable might reasonably be supposed to
have misled him. This saved Le Bas’s face, and
the matter was allowed to drop at the expense
of some minor penalty. The question of Uncle
Giles’s cigarette was, however, pursued with
extraordinary relentlessness into the New
Year. My uncle’s lapse seemed in some manner
to have brought home to Le Bas the suspicion
that Stringham and I might have developed a
tendency, no less pernicious than Templer’s, to
break rules; and he managed in a number of
small ways to make himself, as he had
promised, decidedly obnoxious to both of us. I
wrote twice to Uncle Giles, though without
much hope of hearing from him. Months later
the second letter arrived back from his last
address marked “Gone Away:” just as if – as
Stringham had remarked – my uncle had been
a fox. This envelope finally satisfied Le Bas; but
in future he was never quite the same either to
Stringham or myself, the deterioration of his
relations with Stringham leading ultimately to
the incident of “Braddock alias Thorne,” an
occasion which illustrated, curiously enough,
another aspect of Widmerpool, though in it he
played an entirely subordinate part.
    This rather absurd affair, which did no one
great credit, took place the following summer.
Stringham, Templer and I were still messing
together; and by then both of them had become
so much part of my existence at school that it
seemed strange to me that I had ever had
doubts about either as a companion: though
Stringham remained the one with whom I had
most in common. Even now it seems to me that
I spent a large proportion of my life in their
close company, although the time that we were
all three together was less than eighteen
months. Their behaviour exemplified two
different sides of life, in spite of some outward
similarity in their tastes. For Templer, there
was no truth except in tangible things: though
he was not ambitious. Stringham, as I now see
him, was romantic, and would perhaps have
liked to play a somewhat different role from
that     which varying moods, and love of
eccentricity, entailed upon him. Personally, I
was aware of no particular drift to my life at
that time. The days passed, and only later could
their inexorable comment be recorded; and,
pointless in some respects as was the Braddock
alias Thorne episode, it retains a place, though
not a specially admirable one, in my
recollections of Stringham especially.
    The three of us had gone for a walk one
Sunday afternoon and were wandering about,
rather aimlessly, in the heat; Stringham and
Templer having wished to proceed in opposite
directions. Passing the police-station, which we
had finally reached without yet deciding on a
line of march, Stringham had paused to read
the posters pasted up outside: where, among a
collection of notices referring to lost dogs, stolen
jewellery , and foot-and-mouth disease, was
reproduced the likeness of a man wanted for
fraud. He was called “Braddock alias Thorne,”
and his portrait showed one of those blurred,
nondescript     countenances,      familiar  in
advertisements depicting persons who testify
that patent medicine has banished their uric
acid, or that application of some more
efficacious remedy has enabled them to
dispense with the use of a truss. The writing
under the picture said that Braddock alias
Thorne (who seemed to have committed an
unusually large number of petty offences) was a
man of respectable appearance, probably
dressed in a black suit. The description was
hardly borne out by what could be resolved
from the photograph, which showed a bald,
middle-aged criminal in spectacles, who looked
capable of any enormity. Stringham remarked
that the picture resembled President Woodrow
Wilson. Templer said: “It is much more like Le
Bas.”
    “More of a poet,” said Stringham, who loved
to emphasise this side of Le Bas’s personality;
a n d had indeed built up a picture of his
housemaster as a man whose every spare
moment was spent in scribbling verses with the
help of a rhyming dictionary. He said: “There is
a touch of distinction about Braddock alias
Thorne, and absolutely none about Le Bas.”
     “Must we spend the whole afternoon
reading this stuff?” said Templer. “It is about
a s interesting as the house notice-board. Let’s
go somewhere where I can have my pipe.
There is no point in trudging about the town on
Sunday.”
     And so we turned about towards the fields,
passing the house again, and entering an area of
dusty cow-parsley and parched meadows.
While still on the road the figure of Widmerpool
appeared in front of us. He was tramping along
in the sunlight, swinging arms and legs like an
automaton of which the mechanism might be
slightly out of order. We walked behind him for
a time, Stringham doing an imitation of the way
Widmerpool put his feet to the ground. From an
unreasoning fear of the embarrassment that
would be caused me if Widmerpool should look
back and himself observe Stringham’s agitated
pantomime, I persuaded him to stop this
improvisation. I had remained in some odd
manner interested in Widmerpool since that
night in the fog; and, although Stringham’s
imitation was ludicrously exact, to think that
Widmerpool might see it was for some reason
painful to me; though I was almost sorry when
the time came to turn off the road and leave
Widmerpool to disappear in a distant cloud of
dust.
    “I don’t know what I should do without
Widmerpool,” Stringham said. “He keeps me
young.”
    “I sometimes wonder whether he is a
human being at all,” Templer said. “He
certainly doesn’t move like one.”
    We passed beyond the railway line to
pasture, where Templer lit up his horrible
stubby pipe, and argued as we walked along
about the age of the Dolly Sisters, one of whom
Stringham held to be the mother of the other.
The sun was too hot to make our way straight
across the grass, so that we moved along by
hedges, where there was some little shade.
Templer      was    still vigorously contesting
Stringham’s theory of relationship, when we
came through some trees and faced a low bank,
covered with undergrowth, which stood
between us and the next field. The road was by
this time fairly far away. Stringham and
Templer now ceased to discuss the Dolly
Sisters, and both took a run at this obstacle.
Stringham got over first, disappearing down the
far side: from which a sort of cry, or
exclamation sounded. As Templer came to the
top of the mound of grass, I noticed him snatch
his pipe from his mouth and jump. I came up
the slope at my leisure, behind the other two,
and, reaching the crest, saw them at the foot of
the bank. There was an unexpectedly deep
drop to the ground. In the field below,
Stringham and Templer were talking to Le Bas,
who was reclining on the ground, leaning on one
elbow.
    Stringham was bending forward a little,
talking hard. Templer had managed to get his
pipe back into his pocket, or was concealing it in
his hand, because when I reached the level of
the field, it had disappeared: although the rank,
musty odour of the shag which he was affecting
at that period swept from time to time through
the warm air, indicating that the tobacco was
still alight in the neighbourhood. Le Bas had in
his hand a small blue book. It was open. I saw
from the type face that it contained verse. His
hat hung from the top of his walking stick,
which he had thrust into the ground, and his
bald head was sweating a bit on top. He
crouched there in the manner of a large animal
– some beast alien to the English countryside, a
yak or sea-lion – taking its ease: marring, as
Stringham said later, the beauty of the summer
afternoon. However, Le Bas appeared to be in a
moderately good humour. He was saying to
Stringham: “I don’t know why I should tolerate
this invasion of my favourite spot. Cannot you
all understand that I come here to get away
from people like you and Jenkins and Templer?
I want peace and quiet for once: not to be
surrounded by my pupils.”
     “It is a nice place, sir,” said Stringham,
smiling, though not in the least committing
himself by too much friendliness all at once.
   Le Bas turned without warning to his book,
and, picking it up from the ground, began to
read aloud in his guttural, controlled voice:
     “‘Ah! leave the smoke, the wealth,
     the roar
     Of London, and the bustling street,
     For still, by the Sicilian shore,
     The murmur of the Muse is sweet,
     Still, still, the suns of summer greet
     The mountain-grave of Helike,
     And shepherds still their songs
     repeat,
     Where breaks the blue Sicilian sea.
     “‘Theocritus! thou canst restore
     The pleasant years, and over-fleet;
     With thee we live as men of yore,
     We rest where running waters
     meet:
     And then we turn unwilling feet
     And seek the world – so must it be
     –
     We may not linger in the heat
     Where breaks the blue Sicilian sea!’”
    He shut the book with a snap, and said:
“Now can any one of you tell me who wrote
that?”
    We made various suggestions – Templer
characteristically opting for Shakespeare – and
then Stringham said: “Matthew Arnold.”
    “Not a bad shot,” said Le Bas. “It is Andrew
Lang as a matter of fact. Fine lines, you know.”
    Another fetid whiff of Templer’s shag puffed
its way through the ether. It seemed impossible
that Le Bas should remain much longer
unaware that a pipe was smoking somewhere
near him. However, he seemed to be getting
into his stride on the subject of poetry. He said:
“There are descriptive verses by Arnold,
somewhat similar in metre that may have run
in your head, Stringham. Things like:
     “‘The clouds are on the Oberland,
     The Jungfrau’s snows look faint and
     far;
     But bright are those green fields at
     hand,
     And through those fields comes
     down the Aar.’
    “Rather a different geographical situation, it
is true, but the same mood of invoking
melancholy by graphic description of natural
features of the landscape.”
    Stringham said: “The Andrew Lang made
me think of:
     “‘O singer of Persephone
     In the dim meadows desolate
     Dost thou remember Sicily?’
     “Do you know that, sir? I don’t know how it
goes on, but the lines keep on repeating.”
     Le Bas looked a little uneasy at this. It was
evident that Stringham had displeased him in
some way. He said rather gruffly: “It is a
villanelle. I believe Oscar Wilde wrote it, didn’t
he? Not a very distinguished versifier.”
     Quickly abandoning what had apparently
been taken as a hostile standpoint, Stringham
went on: “And then Heraclitus —”
     The words had an instantaneous effect. Le
Bas’s face cleared at once, and he broke in with
more reverberance even than before:
     ‘Still are thy pleasant voices, the
     nightingales awake,
     For Death he taketh all away, but
     them he cannot take.’
    “I think you are right, Stringham. Good.
Very Good. In fact, alpha plus. It all has the
same note of nineteenth-century nostalgia for a
classical past largely of their own imagining.”
    Le Bas sighed, and, removing his spectacles,
began in his accustomed manner to massage his
eyelids, which appeared to be a trifle less
inflamed than normally.
    “I looked up Heraclitus in the classical
dictionary, sir,” said Stringham, “and was
rather surprised to find that he fed mostly on
grass and made his house on a dung-hill. I can
quite understand his wanting to be a guest if
that is how he lived at home, but I shouldn’t
have thought that he would have been a very
welcome one. Though it is true that one would
probably remember him afterwards.”
    Le Bas was absolutely delighted at this
remark. He laughed aloud, a rare thing with
him. “Splendid, Stringham, splendid,” he said.
“You have confused the friend of Callimachus
with a philosopher who lived probably a couple
of centuries earlier. But I quite agree that if the
other Heraclitus’s habits had been those you
de scr ibe , he would not have been any
encouragement to hospitality.”
    He laughed a lot, and this would have b.een
the moment to leave him, and go on our way.
We should probably have escaped without
further trouble if Templer – feeling no doubt
that Stringham had been occupying too much of
the stage – had not begun to shoot out
radiations towards Le Bas, long and short, like
an ocular Morse code, saying at the same time
in his naturally rather harsh voice: “I am afraid
we very nearly jumped on you, sir.”
    Le Bas at once looked less friendly. In any
case it was an unwise remark to make and
Templer managed to imply a kind of threat in
the tone, probably the consequence in some
degree of his perpetual war with Le Bas. As a
result of this observation, Le Bas at once
launched into a long, and wholly irrelevant,
speech on the topic of his new scheme for the
prevention of the theft of books from the slab in
the hail: a favourite subject of his for wearing
down resistance in members of his house. It
was accordingly some time before we were at
last able to escape from the field, and from Le
Bas: who returned to his book of verse.
Fortunately the pipe seemed to have
extinguished itself during the latter period of Le
Ba s ’ s harangue; or perhaps its smell was
absorbed by that of the gas-works, which,
absent in the earlier afternoon, had now
become apparent.
    Behind the next hedge Templer took the
pipe from his pocket and tapped it out against
his heel.
    “That was a near one,” he said. “I burnt my
hand on that bloody pipe. Why on earth did you
want to go on like that about poetry?”
    “How Le Bas failed to notice the appalling
stink from your pipe will always be a mystery,”
Stringham said. “His olfactory sense must be
deficient – probably adenoids. Why, therefore,
did he make so much fuss about Jenkins’s
uncle’s cigarette? It is an interesting question.”
    “But Heraclitus, or whoever it was,” said
Templer. “It was all so utterly unnecessary.”
    “Heraclitus put him in a good temper,” said
Stringham. “It was your threatening to jump on
him that made the trouble.”
    “It was your talking about Oscar Wilde.”
    “Nonsense.”
    “Anyway,” said Templer, “Le Bas has
thoroughly spoiled my afternoon. Let’s go
back.”
    Stringham agreed, and we pursued a grassy
path bordered with turnip fields. A short
distance farther on, this track narrowed, and
traversed a locality made up of allotments,
dotted here and there with huts, or potting-
sheds. Climbing a gate, we came out on to the
road. There was a garage opposite with a shack
beside it, in front of which stood some battered
ir on tables and chairs. A notice offered “Tea
a n d Minerals.” It was a desolate spot.
Stringham said: “We might just drop in here for
a cooling drink.”
    Templer and I at once protested against
entering this uninviting booth, which had
nothing whatever to recommend it outwardly.
All shops were out-of-bounds on Sunday, and
there was no apparent reason for running the
risk of being caught in such a place; especially
since Le Bas might easily decide to return to
the house along this road. However, Stringham
was so pressing that in the end we were
persuaded to accompany him into the shack.
The front room was empty. A girl in a grubby
apron with untidy bobbed hair came in from
the back, where a gramophone was playing:
     “Everything is buzz-buzz now,
     Everything is buzz, somehow:
     You ring up on your buzzer,
     And bozz with one anozzer,
     Or, in other words, pow-wow.”
    The girl moved towards us with reluctance.
Stringham ordered ginger-beer. Templer said:
“This place is too awful. Anyway, I loathe sweet
drinks.”
    We sat down at one of the iron tables,
covered with a cloth marked with jagged brown
stains. The record stopped: the needle
continuing to scratch round and round its
centre, revolving slower and slower, until at last
the mechanism unwound itself and ceased to,
operate. Stringham asked the girl if there was a
telephone. She made some enquiries from an
u ns e e n person, still farther off than the
gramophone, and an older woman’s voice joined
in discussion of the matter. Then the girl came
back and told Stringham he could use the
telephone in the office of the garage, if he liked
to come with her to the back of the building.
Stringham disappeared with the girl. Templer
said: “What on earth is happening? He can’t be
trying to get off with that female.”
    We drank our ginger-beer.
    “What the hell is he up to?” said Templer
again, after some minutes had passed. “I hope
we don’t run into Le Bas coming out of here.”
    We finished our drinks and Templer tried,
without success, to engage the girl in
conversation, when she came to clear plates
a n d glasses from another table. At last
Stringham reappeared, rather hurriedly, his
usually pale face slightly flushed. He drank off
his ginger-beer at a gulp and said: “We might
be getting along now. I will pay for this.”
    Out on the road again, Templer said: “First
we are rushed into this horrible place: then we
are rushed out again. What is supposed to be
on?”
    Stringham said: “I’ve just had a word with
the police.”
    “What about?”
    “On the subject of Braddock alias Thorne.”
    “Who’s that?”
    “The chap they wanted for fraud.”
    “What about him?”
    “Just to inform them of his whereabouts.”
    “Is this a joke?”
    “Yes.”
    “Where did you tell them to look?”
    “In a field beyond the railway line.”
    “Why?”
    “Set your mind to it.”
    “Le Bas?”
    “Neat, wasn’t it?”
    “What did they say?”
    “I rang up in the character of Le Bas
himself,” Stringham said. “I told them that a
man ‘described as looking rather like me’ had
been piling up bills at various shops in the town
where I had accounts: that I had positive
information that the man in question had been
only a few minutes earlier at the place I
described.”
    “Did the police swallow that?”
    “They asked me to come to the station. I
pretended to get angry at the delay, and – in a
really magnificent Le Bas outburst – I said that
I had an urgent appointment to address the
confirmation candidates – although, as far as I
can remember, it is the wrong time of year to
be confirmed – that I was late already and
must set off at once: and that, if the man were
n o t arrested, I should hold the local police
responsible.”
    “I foresee the hell of a row,” said Templer.
“Still, one must admit that it was a good idea.
Meanwhile, the sooner we get back to the house
and supply a few alibis, the better.”
    We walked at a fairly smart pace down the
road Widmerpool had traversed when I had
seen him returning from his run at the end of
the previous year: the tar now soft under foot
from the heat of the summer sun. Inside, the
house was quiet and comparatively cool.
Templer, who had recently relaxed his rule of
never reading for pleasure, took up Sanders of
the River, while Stringham and I discussed the
probable course that events would take if the
police decided to act as a result of the telephone
message. We sat about until the bell began to
ring for evening chapel.
    “Come on,” said Stringham. “Let’s see if
there is any news.”
    At the foot of the stairs, we met
Widmerpool in the hall. He had just come in
from outside, and he seemed unusually excited
about something. As we passed – contrary in
my experience to all precedent so far as his
normal behaviour was concerned – he
addressed himself to Stringham, in point of age
the nearest to him, saying in his shrillest voice:
“I say, do you know Le Bas has been arrested?”
    He stood there in the shadowy space by the
slab in a setting of brown-paper parcels, dog-
eared school books, and crumbs – a precinct of
which the moral and physical cleansing
provoked endless activity in the mind of Le Bas
– and stood with his feet apart and eyes
expanded, his panting, as Templer had justly
described it, like that of an elderly lap-dog: his
appearance suggesting rather some unusual
creature actually bred in those depths by the
slab, amphibious perhaps, though largely
belonging to this land-world of blankets and
carbolic: scents which attained their maximum
density at this point, where they met and
mingled with the Irish stew, which, coming
from the territories of laundry baskets and
coke, reached its most potent force on the first
step of the stairs.
    Stringham turned to Widmerpool. “I am not
surprised,” he said coldly. “How did it happen?”
    “I was coming back from my walk,” said
Widmerpool, in spite of his excitement lowering
his voice a little, as though touching on a very
sacred subject in thus referring to his personal
habits, “I was coming back from my walk,” he
repeated, dwelling on the words, “and, as I
strolled across one of the fields by the railway
line, I saw Le Bas lying on the ground reading a
book.”
    “I hope you weren’t smoking, Widmerpool,”
said Templer.
    Widmerpool ignored this interpolation, and
went on: “Then I noticed that there was a
policeman making across the field towards Le
Bas. When the policeman – a big, fat fellow –
reached Le Bas he seemed to begin reading
something from a note-book. Anyway, Le Bas
looked very surprised at first. Then he began to
get up. I suppose he must have caught his foot
in something, because he stumbled. Evidently
the policeman thought he was going to try and
escape.”
    “What happened when he stumbled?” asked
Stringham.
    “The policeman took his arm.”
    “Did he handcuff him?”
    “No – but he grabbed him rather roughly.”
    “What did Le Bas say?”
    “I couldn’t hear. It looked as if he were
making an awful fuss. You know the way he
stutters when he is angry.”
    “And so the policeman led him off?”
    “ W h a t c o u l d h e have done?” said
Widmerpool, who seemed utterly overwhelmed
at the idea that his housemaster should have
been arrested.
    Stringham asked: “Did anyone else see
this?”
    “A soldier and a girl appeared from a ditch
and watched them go off together.”
    “Did Le Bas notice you?”
    “I kept behind the hedge. I didn’t want to
get mixed up with anything awkward.”
    “That was wise of you, Widmerpool,” said
Stringham. “Have you told anyone what you
saw?”
    “Only F. F. Fletcher and Calthorpe Major. I
met them on the way back. What can Le Bas
have done?”
    “Do you mean to tell me you don’t know?”
said Stringham.
    Widmerpool looked taken aback. His
breathing had become less heavy while he
unburdened himself of his story. Now once
more it began to sound like an engine warming
up.
    “What do you mean?” he asked.
    “I don’t me an anything,” said Stringham,
“except that I am not particularly surprised.”
    “But tell me what you think it is.”
    Widmerpool spoke almost beseechingly.
    “Now look here, Widmerpool,” said
Stringham, “I am awfully sorry. If you have
never noticed for yourself anything about our
housemaster, it is hardly my place to tell you.
You are higher up in the house than I am. You
have to shoulder a certain amount of additional
responsibility on that account. It is not for me
to spread scandals in advance. I fear that we
shall all be reading about Le Bas quite soon
enough in the papers.”
    We left Widmerpool on the steps of the
house: to all intents and purposes, a fish
recently hauled from the water, making
powerful though failing efforts at respiration.
    “That boy will be the death of me,” said
Stringham, as J: we walked quickly together up
the road.
    Most of the crowd who paced up and down
by the chapel, passing backwards and forwards
over the cobbles, while masters tried to herd
them into the building, already knew something
of Le Bas’s arrest: though only Calthorpe
Major, armed with advanced information from
Widmerpool, seemed yet to have had time to
write home on the subject. “I sat straight down
and sent off a letter to my people about Le Bas
having been removed to prison at last,”
Calthorpe Major was saying. “They never liked
him. He got his Leander the same time as my
father. I’ve promised to let them know further
details as soon as I can get them.” He moved
on, repeating the story to friends who had not
yet heard the news. Stringham, too, pushed his
way I through the mob of boys, collecting
versions of the scene that had taken place.
These were many in number. The bell
quickened its ring and stopped with a kind of
explosion of sound as the clock began to strike
the hour. We were swept up the steps.
Stringham said: “I am afraid it was all in rather
doubtful taste. In some ways I regret having
been concerned in it. One is such a creature of
impulse.”
    Although the air under the high vault struck
almost chill after the warmth outside in the
yard, the evening sun I streamed through the
windows of the chapel. Rows of boys, fidgeting
but silent, provoked, as always, an atmosphere
of expectancy before the service began. The
voluntary droned quietly for a time, gradually
swelling into a bellow: then stopped with a jerk,
and began again more gently: remaining for a
time at this muted level of sound. Emotional
intensity seemed to meet and mingle with an
air of indifference, even of cruelty within these
ancient walls. Youth and Time here had made,
as it were, some compromise. Le Bas came in
late, just before the choir, and strode unsteadily
towards his stall under the high neo-gothic
canopy of carved wood. He looked discomposed.
The surface of his skull was red and shining,
and, more than once, he seemed to mutter to
himself.
    Cobberton, another housemaster, and a
parson, through gold-rimmed spectacles looked
across from the far side of the aisle, lips tightly
caught together and eyebrows raised. He and
Le Bas had chronically strained relations with
one another, and, as it turned out, by one of
those happy, or unhappy, chances, Cobberton
had finally been the man to establish Le Bas’s
identity with the police. This fact was
subsequently revealed by Cobberton, who also
disclosed generally that the policeman who had
taken down Stringham’s telephone message on
t h e subject of Braddock alias Thorne had
remarked to Le Bas, after the matter had been
cleared up: “He’d fair got your manner of
speech to a T, sir, whoever he was.”
    The congregation rose to sing a hymn. I
looked round the packed seats, and lines of
faces arranged in tiers. Stringham was opposite,
standing with his arms folded, not singing. His
cheeks had lost the flush they had taken on
during the excitement of all that had followed
his telephoning the police-station and had now
returned to their usual pallor. He looked grave,
lost in thought, almost seraphic: a carved figure
symbolising some virtue like Resignation or
Self-sacrifice. Templer I could not see, because
he sat on the same side of the aisle as myself
and was too far distant to be visible from my
place. On the other side, away to the left,
Widmerpool was holding a book in front of him,
singing hard: his mouth opening and shutting
sharply, more than ever like some uncommon
specimen of marine life. He turned his eyes
from time to time towards the rafters and high
spaces of the roof. I could see his lips forming
the syllables. The words of the verse seemed
especially applicable to his case, since he was
leaving at the end of the term; and I wondered
whether the same thought was passing through
his own mind:
     “As o’er each continent and island
     The dawn leads on another day,
     The voice of prayer is never silent
     Nor dies the strain of praise away.”
    Somehow I felt rather moved as the hymn
rolled on. A group of boys sitting behind me
began to chant a descant of their own; making a
good deal of noise, not entirely disagreeable.
Cobberton noticed the sound, and frowned.
Widmerpool also stopped singing for a second
a n d he too glanced across reprovingly. That
was my last memory of him at school, because
he left, for good, a few weeks later; although
owing to some misunderstanding – perhaps Le
Bas’s mind was more confused than usual on
account of the trick played on him –
Widmerpool’s name continued to appear in the
house-list of the following September: a final
assertion of the will to remain and strive
further for unattainable laurels.

                      *
2
IT IS NOT EASY – perhaps not even desirable
– to judge other people by a consistent
standard. Conduct obnoxious, even unbearable,
in one person may be readily tolerated in
another; apparently indispensable principles of
behaviour are in practice relaxed – not always
with impunity – in the interests of those whose
nature seems to demand an exceptional
measure. That is one of the difficulties of
committing human action to paper, a perplexity
that really justifies the alternations of comedy
with tragedy in Shakespearian drama: because
some characters and some deeds (Uncle Giles’s,
as I have mentioned) may be thought of only in
terms appropriate to themselves, irrespective
of their consequence. On the stage, however,
masks are assumed with some regard to
procedure: in everyday life, the participants act
t he ir parts without consideration either for
suitability of scene or for the words spoken by
the rest of the cast: the result is a general
tendency for things to be brought to the level of
farce even when the theme is serious enough.
This disregard for the unities is something that
cannot be circumvented in human life; though
there are times when close observation reveals,
one way or another, that matters may not have
been so irreconcilable at the close of the
performance as they may have appeared in the
Second Act.
    For example, in the course of having tea for
nine months of the year with Stringham and
Templer, the divergent nature of their
respective points of view became increasingly
clear to me, though compared with some
remote figure like Widmerpool (who, at that
time, seemed scarcely to belong to the same
species as the other two) they must have
appeared, say to Parkinson, as identical in
mould: simply on account of their common
indifference to a side of life – notably football –
in which Parkinson himself showed every sign
of finding absorbing interest. As I came
gradually to know them better, I saw that, in
reality, Stringham and Templer provided, in
their respective methods of approaching life,
patterns of two very distinguishable forms of
existence, each of which deserved consideration
in the light of its own special peculiarities: both,
at the same time, demanding adjustment of a
scale of values that was slowly taking coherent
shape so far as my own canons of behaviour
were concerned. This contrast was in the main
a matter of temperament. In due course I had
opportunities to recognise how much their
unlikeness to each other might also be
attributed to dissimilar background.
    The autumn of the year of Le Bas’s arrest
turned to winter. Stringham was leaving at
Christmas. Before going up to the university, he
was to stay for some months with his father in
Kenya, a trip for which he showed little
enthusiasm, his periods of gloom becoming, if
anything, of longer duration and more intense.
As the time drew near, he used to give
prolonged imitations of his father’s probable
demeanour in handling the natives of his new
African home, in the course of which the elder
Stringham – reputed to drink too much, though
noted      for elaborately good manners –
employed circumlocutions a little in the manner
o f Lord Chesterfield to faithful coloured
retainers envisaged in terms of Man Friday or
Uncle Tom. “I imagine everyone in Kenya will
be terribly hearty and wear shorts and drink
sun-downers and all that sort of thing,”
Stringham used to say. “However, it will be nice
to leave school and be on one’s own at last, even
though it is to be one’s own in darkest Africa in
those great open spaces where men are men.”
It was arranged that I should lunch at his
mother’s house on my way through London on
the first day of the holidays. The weather, from
being wet and mild, had changed to frost and
bright sun; and we travelled up together
through white and sparkling fields.
    “You will probably meet Buster at lunch,”
Stringham said.
    “Who is Buster?”
    “My mother’s current husband.”
    I knew nothing of this figure except that he
was called Lieutenant-Commander Foxe, and
that Stringham had once described him as “a
polo-playing sailor.” When asked what Buster
was like, Stringham had replied that he
preferred naval officers who were “not so
frightfully grand.” He had not elaborated this
description, which did not at that time convey
much to me, most of the naval officers I had
come across being accustomed to speak of
themselves as far from grand and chronically
hard-up; though he added in amplification – as
if the presence of a husband in his mother’s
house was in itself odd enough in all conscience
– that Buster was “always about the place.”
    “Doesn’t he ever go to sea?”
    “At present he is at the Admiralty; and, I
believe, starting some leave at any moment.
However, I suppose it is better to have him
living in the house than arriving there at all
hours of the day and night disturbing the
servants.”
    This sketch of Buster evoked an impression
of behaviour decidedly unsatisfactory; and for
the rest of the journey I was curious to meet
someone of mature years and such apparently
irregular habits. When we arrived in London,
Stringham explained that he wanted to buy
some tropical clothes; and, as this proved an
amusing occupation, we did not reach the house
again until late in the morning; having delivered
the luggage there on our arrival. It was a rather
gloomy double-fronted façade in a small street
near Berkeley Square: the pillars of the
entrance flanked on either side with hollow
cones for the linkmen to extinguish their
torches,
    “Come up to the library,” Stringham said.
“We shall probably find Buster there.”
    I followed up the stairs into a room on the
first floor, generally crimson in effect,
containing a couple of large Regency bookcases.
A female portrait, by appearance a Romney,
hung over the fireplace, and there was a
malachite urn of immense size on a marble-
topped table by the window: presented, I learnt
later, by the Tsar to one of the Warringtons
who had headed some diplomatic mission to
Rus s ia at the beginning of the nineteenth
century. Buster was standing beside this urn,
cleaning a cigarette-holder with the end of a
match-stick. He was tall, and at once struck me
as surprisingly young; with the slightly drawn
expression that one recognises in later life as
the face of a man who does himself pretty well,
while not ceasing to take plenty of exercise. His
turn- out was emphatically excellent, and he
diffused waves of personality, strong, chilling
gusts of icy air, a protective element that
threatened to freeze into rigidity all who came
through the door, before they could approach
him nearer.
    “Hallo, you fellows,” he said, without looking
up from his cigarette-holder, at which he
appeared to be sneering, as if this object were
not nearly valuable enough to presume to
belong to him.
    “Hallo.”
    Stringham took a step forward, and, without
moving farther into the room, stood for a
moment looking more than ever like Veronese’s
Alex ander. Then he introduced me. Buster
slipped his cigarette-holder into his pocket, and
nodded. He had a way of making one feel
remarkably ill at ease. He said: “It’s a blow, but
I have to leave you.”
    “Aren’t you lunching here?” said Stringham.
    “I am trying to buy a Bentley from a man
awfully cheap. I’ve got to keep him sweet.”
    “Did you sell the Isotta?”
    “I had to.”
    Buster smiled a little sadly, as if in half
public acknowledgment that he himself had
long since seen through any illusions once
possessed regarding the extent of his wife’s
fortune; but indicating by the same smile that
he had learnt how to bear his disappointment.
Stringham said: “Where are you taking him?”
    “Claridge’s.”
    “Will you ply him with drink?”
    “Hock, I think. That is what I am feeling like
myself. Are you coming to the Russian Ballet
to-night?”
    “I didn’t know I was asked,” Stringham
said. “I’d like to.”
    “Do.”
    “Anyone for lunch?”
    “Only Tuffy. She will be glad to see you.”
    “Then we will wish you good luck with your
deal.”
    I was conscious that some sort of a duel had
been taking place, and that Stringham had
somehow gained an advantage by, as it were,
ordering Buster from the room. Buster himself
began to smile, perhaps recognising momentary
defeat, to be disregarded from assurance of
ult imat e victory. Like a man effortlessly
winning a walking-race, he crossed the carpet
with long, easy strides: at the same time
separating from himself some of the eddies of
cold air that surrounded him, and bequeathing
them to the atmosphere of the room after he
had left it. I was relieved at his departure.
Stringham moved across to the window. He
said: “He gets himself up rather like Peter
Templer, doesn’t he?”
    “Have they ever met?”
    To my surprise, Stringham laughed aloud.
    “Good Lord, no,” he said.
    “Wouldn’t they like each other?”
    “It is an interesting question.”
    “Why not try it?”
    “I am devoted to Peter,” Stringham said,
“but really I’m not sure one could have him in
the house, could one?”
    “Oh?”
    “Well, I don’t really mean that,” said
Stringham. “Not literally, of course. But you
must admit that Peter doesn’t exactly fit in
with home life.”
    “I suppose not.”
    “You agree?”
    “I see what you mean.”
    I certainly saw what Stringham meant;
even though the sort of home life that included
Buster provided a picture rather different from
that which the phrase ordinarily suggested to
me from my own experience. At the moment
howev er, I was chiefly conscious of a new
balance of relationship between Stringham and
Templer. Although their association together
possessed a curiously unrelenting quality, like
the union of partners in a business rather than
the intimacy of friends, I had always thought of
Templer as a far closer and more established
crony of Stringham’s than was I myself; and it
had never crossed my mind that Stringham
might share at all the want of confidence that,
a t least in the earlier stages of our
acquaintance, I had sometimes felt towards
Templer. Templer certainly did not appear to
be designed for domestic life: though for that
matter the same might be said of Stringham.
Before I could ponder the question further,
someone descending the stairs passed in
through the door left ajar by Buster. Catching
sight of this person, Stringham called out:
“Tuffy, how are you?”
    The woman who came into the room was
about thirty or thirty-five, I suppose, though at
the time she impressed me as older. Dressed in
black, she was dark and not bad-looking, with a
beaky nose. “Charles,” she said; and, as she
smiled at him, she seemed so positively
delighted that her face took on a sudden look of
intensity, almost of anxiety, the look that
women’s faces sometimes show at a moment of
supreme pleasure.
    That quick avid glance disappeared
immediately, though she continued to smile
towards him.
    “This is Miss Weedon,” said Stringham,
laughing in a friendly way, as he took her left
hand in his right. “How have you been, Tuffy?”
    Though less glacial than Buster, Miss
Weedon was not overwhelmingly affable when
she gave me a palm that felt cool and brittle.
She said in an aside: “You know they nearly
forgot to take a ticket for you for the Russian
Ballet to-night.”
    “Good gracious,” said Stringham. “What
next?”
    However, he did not show any sign of being
specially put out by this lapse on the part of his
family.
    “I saw to it that they got an extra one.”
    “Thank you, Tuffy.”
    She had perhaps hoped for something more
exuberant in the way of gratitude, because her
face hardened a little, while she continued to fix
him with her smile.
    “We have just been talking to Buster,”
Stringham said, plainly dismissing the subject of
the tickets.
    She put her head a little on one side and
remarked: “I am sure that he was as charming
as ever.”
    “If possible, even more so.”
    “Buster has been behaving very well,” she
said.
    “I am glad to hear it.”
    “Now I must rush off and do some things for
your mother before luncheon.”
    She was gone in a flash. Stringham yawned.
I asked about Miss Weedon. Stringham said:
“Tuffy. Oh, she used to be my sister’s
governess. She stays here a lot of the time. She
does all my mother’s odd jobs – especially the
Hospital.”
    He laughed, as if at the thought of the
preposterous amount of work that Miss
Weedon had to undertake. I was not very clear
as to what “the Hospital” might be; but
accepted it as an activity natural enough for
Mrs. Foxe.
    “Tuffy is a great supporter of mine,”
Stringham added: as if in explanation of
something that needed explaining.
    He did not extend this statement. A
moment or two later his mother appeared. I
thought her tremendously beautiful: though
smaller than the photograph in Stringham’s
r oom had suggested. Still wearing a hat, she
had just come into the house. She kissed him,
and said: “Everything is in a terrible muddle. I
really can’t decide whether or not I want to go
to Glimber for Christmas. I feel one ought to;
but it is so frightfully cold.”
    “Come to Kenya with me, instead,” said
Stringham. “Glimber is much too draughty in
the winter. Anyway, it would probably kill
Buster, who is used to snug cabins.”
    “It would be rather fun to spend Christmas
on the boat.”
    “Too jolly for words,” said Stringham.
“Buster had to lunch out. Did you see him?”
    “I hear he is buying a new car.”
    “He really did need one,” she said. This
could hardly have been meant for an apology,
but her voice sounded a little apprehensive.
Changing the subject, she turned to me and
said: “I think poor Mr. Le Bas must be so glad
that Charles has left at last. He used to write
the most pathetic letters about him. Still, you
weren’t expelled, darling. That was clever of
you.”
    “It took some doing,” Stringham said. In
view of their relationship, this manner of
talking was quite unlike anything I had been
used to; though, in a general way, fitting the
rough outline pieced together from scraps of
information regarding his home, or stories
about his mother, that Stringham had from
time to time let fall. He had, for example, once
remarked that she liked interfering in political
matters, and I wondered whether some
startling intrigue with a member, or members
of the Cabinet would be revealed during
luncheon, which was announced a minute or
two later. Miss Weedon came down the stairs
after us, and, before following into the dining-
room, had some sort of a consultation with the
footman, to whom she handed a sheaf of
papers. As we sat down, Stringham said: “I
hear we are going to the Russian Ballet to-
night.”
    “It was Buster’s idea. He thought you would
like it.”
     “That was kind of him.”
     “I expect you boys – can I still call you boys
– are going to a matinee this afternoon.”
     I told her that I had, unfortunately, to catch
a train to the country.
     “Oh, but that is too sad,” she said, seeming
quite cast down. “Where are you making for?” I
explained that the journey was to the west of
England, where my father was on the staff of a
Corps Headquarters. Thinking that the
exigencies of army life might in all likelihood be
unfamiliar to her, I added something about
often finding myself in a place different from
that in which I had spent previous holidays.
     “I know all about the army,” she said. “My
first husband was a soldier. That was ages ago,
of course. Even apart from that we had a house
on the Curragh, because he used to train his
horses there – so that nothing about soldiering
is a mystery to me.”
     There       was      something        curiously
overpowering about her. Now she seemed to
have attached the army to herself, like a piece
of property rediscovered after lying for long
years forgotten. Lord Warrington had, it
appeared, commanded a cavalry brigade before
he retired. She told stories of the Duke of
Cambridge, and talked of Kitchener and his
collection of china.
    “Are you going to be a soldier too?” she
asked.
    “No.”
    “I think Charles ought. Anyway for a time.
But he doesn’t seem awfully keen.”
    “No,” said Stringham, “he doesn’t.”
    “But your father liked his time in the
Grenadiers,” she insisted. “He always said it did
him a lot of good.”
    She looked so beseeching when she said this
that Stringham burst out laughing; and I
laughed too. Even Miss Weedon smiled at the
notion that anything so transitory as service
with the Grenadiers could ever have done
Stringham’s father good. Stringham himself had
seemed to be on the edge of one of his fits of
depression; but now he cheered up for a time:
though his mother seemed to exhaust his
energies and subdue him. This was not
surprising, considering the force of her
personality, which perhaps explained some of
Buster’s need for an elaborate mechanism of
self-defence. Except this force, which had
something unrestrained, almost alien, about it,
she showed no sign whatever of her South
African origin. It is true that I did not know
what to expect as outward marks of such
antecedents; though I had perhaps supposed
that in some manner she would be less
assimilated into the world in which she now
lived. She said: “This is the last time you will
see Charles until he comes back from Kenya.”
    “We meet in the autumn.”
    “I wish I wasn’t going,” Stringham said. “It
really is the most desperate bore. Can’t I get
out of it?”
    “But, darling, you are sailing in two days’
time. I thought you wanted to go. And your
father would be so disappointed.”
    “Would he?”
    His       mother         sighed. Stringham’s
despondency, briefly postponed, was now once
more in the ascendant. Miss Weedon said with
emphasis: “But you will be back soon.”
    Stringham did not answer; but he shot her a
look almost of hatred. She was evidently used
to rough treatment from him, because she
appeared not at all put out by this, and rattled
on about the letters she had been writing that
morning. The look of disappointment she had
shown earlier was to be attributed, perhaps, to
her being still unaccustomed to having him at
home again, with the kindness and cruelties his
presence entailed for her. The meal proceeded.
Miss Weedon and Mrs. Foxe became involved
in a discussion as to whether or not the head-
gardener at Glimber was selling the fruit for his
own profit. Stringham and I talked of school
affairs. The luncheon party – the whole house –
was in an obscure way depressing. I had looked
forward to coming there, but was quite glad
when it was time to go.
    “Write and tell me anything that may
happen,” said Stringham, at the door.
“Especially anything funny that Peter may do.”
    I promised to report any of Templer’s
outstanding adventures, and we arranged to
meet in nine or ten months’ time.
    “I shall long to come back to England,”
Stringham said. “Not that I specially favour the
idea of universities. Undergraduates all look so
wizened, and suede shoes appear to be
compulsory.”
    Berkeley Square, as I drove through it, was
cold and bright and remote: like Buster’s
manner. I wondered how it would be to return
to school with only the company of Templer for
the following year; because there was no one
else with any claim to take Stringham’s place,
so that Templer and I would be left alone
together. Stringham’s removal was going to
alter the orientation of everyday life. I found a
place in a crowded compartment, next to the
engine, beside an elderly man wearing a check
suit, who, for the whole journey, quarrelled
quietly with a clergyman on the subject of
opening the window, kept on taking down a
dispatch-case from the rack, and rummaging
through it for papers that never seemed to be
there, and in a general manner reminded me of
the goings-on of Uncle Giles.
                        *

Uncle Giles’s affairs had, in fact, moved
recently towards something like a climax. After
nearly two years of silence – since the moment
when he had disappeared into the fog,
supposedly on his way to Reading – nothing
had been heard of him; until one day a letter
had arrived, headed with the address of an
hotel in the Isle of Man, the contents of which
implied, though did not state, that he intended
to get married. In anticipation of this
contingency, my uncle advocated a thorough
overhaul of the conditions of the Trust; and
expressed, not for the first time, the difficulties
that lay in the path of a man without influence.
    This news caused my parents some anxiety;
for, although Uncle Giles’s doings during the
passage of time that had taken place were
unknown in detail, his connection with Reading
had been established, with fair certainty, to be
the result of an association with a lady who
lived there: some said a manicurist: others the
widow of a garage-proprietor. There was,
indeed, no reason why she should not have
sustained both roles. The topic was approached
in the family circle with even more gloom, and
horrified curiosity, than Uncle Giles’s activities
usually aroused: misgiving being not entirely
groundless, since Uncle Giles was known to be
almost as indiscriminate in dealings with the
opposite sex as he was unreliable in business
negotiation. His first serious misadventure,
when stationed in Egypt as a young man, had,
indeed, centred upon a love affair.
    It was one of Uncle’Giles’s chief complaints
that he had been “put” into the army – for
which he possessed neither Mrs. Foxe’s
r omant ic admiration nor her hard-headed
grasp of military realities – instead of entering
some unspecified profession in which his gifts
would have been properly valued. He had
begun his soldiering in a line regiment: later,
with a view to being slightly better paid,
exchanging into the Army Service Corps. I used
to imagine him wearing a pill-box cap on the
side of his head, making assignations under a
sub-tropical sun with a beautiful lady dressed
in a bustle and sitting in an open carriage
driven by a coloured coachman; though such
attire, as a matter of fact, belonged to a
somewhat earlier period; and, even if
circumstances resembled this picture in other
respects, the chances were, on the whole, that
assignations would be made, and kept, “in
mufti.”
    There had been, in fact, two separate rows,
which somehow became entangled together:
somebody’s wife, and somebody else’s money:
to say nothing of debts. At one stage, so some of
his relations alleged, there had even been
question of court-martial: not so much to
incriminate my unfortunate uncle as to clear his
name of some of the rumours in circulation. The
court-martial, perhaps fortunately, was never
convened, but the necessity for Uncle Giles to
send in his papers was unquestioned. He
travelled home by South Africa, arriving in
Cape Town a short time before the outbreak of
hostilities with the Boers. In that town he made
undesirable friends – no doubt also
encountering at this period Mrs. Foxe’s father
– and engaged in unwise transactions regarding
the marketing of diamonds; happily not
involving on his part any handling of the stones
themselves. This venture ended almost
disastrously; and, owing to the attitude taken
up by the local authorities, he was unable to
settle in Port Elizabeth, where he had once
thought of earning a living. However, like most
untrustworthy persons, Uncle Giles had the gift
of inspiring confidence in a great many people
with whom he came in contact. Even those who,
to their cost, had known him for years,
sometimes found difficulty in estimating the
lengths to which he could carry his lack of
reliability – and indeed sheer incapacity – in
matters of business. When he returned to
England he was therefore seldom out of a job,
though usually, in his own words, “starting at
the bottom” on an ascent from which great
things were to be expected.
    In 1914 he had tried to get back into the
army, but his services were declined for
medical reasons by the War Office. Not long
after the sinking of the Lusitania he obtained a
post in the Ministry of Munitions; later
transferring himself to the Ministry of Food,
f r o m which he eventually resigned without
scandal. When the United States entered the
war he contrived to find some sort of job in the
provinces at a depot formed for supplying
“comforts” to American troops. He had let it be
known that he had made business connections
on the other side of the Atlantic, as a result of
this employment. That was why there had been
a suggestion – in which wish may have been
father to thought in the minds of his relations –
that he might take up a commercial post in
Philadelphia. The letter from the Isle of Man,
with its hint of impending marriage, seemed to
indicate that any idea of emigration, if ever in
existence, had been abandoned; whilst
references throughout its several pages to “lack
of influence” brought matters back to an earlier
and more fundamental, stage in my uncle’s
presentation of his affairs.
     This business of “influence” was one that
played a great part in Uncle Giles’s philosophy
of life. It was an article of faith with him that all
material advancement in the world was the
result of influence, a mysterious attribute with
which he invested, to a greater or lesser degree,
every human being on earth except himself.
That the rich and nobly born automatically
enjoyed an easy time of it through influence
was, of course, axiomatic; and – as society
moved from an older order – anybody who
might have claims to be considered, at least
outwardly, of the poor and lowly was also
included by him among those dowered with this
almost magic appanage. In cases such as that of
the window-cleaner, or the man who came to
read the gas-meter, the advantage enjoyed was
accounted to less obvious – but, in fact,
superior – opportunity for bettering position in
an increasingly egalitarian world. “T h at door
was banged-to for me at birth,” Uncle Giles
used to say (in a phrase that I found, much
later, he had lifted from a novel by John
Galsworthy) when some plum was mentioned,
conceived by him available only to those above,
or below, him in, the social scale.
    It might be imagined that people of the
middle sort – people, in other words, like Uncle
Giles himself – though he would have been
unwilling to admit his attachment to any
recognisable social group, could be regarded by
him as substantially in the same boat. Nothing
could be farther from the truth. Such persons
belonged to the class, above all others,
sur v ey ed with misgiving by him, because
m e m b e r s of it possessed, almost without
exception, either powerful relations who helped
them on in an underhand way, or business
associations, often formed through less affluent
relations, which enabled them – or so he
suspected – to buy things cheap. Any mention
of the City, or, worse still, the Stock Exchange,
drove him to hard words. Moreover, the
circumstances of people of this kind were often
declared by him to be such that they did not
have to “keep up the same standards” in the
community ,as those that tradition imposed
upon Uncle Giles himself; and, having thus
secured an unfair advantage, they were one
and all abhorrent to him.
    As a result of this creed he was
unconquerably opposed to all established
institutions on the grounds that they were
entirely     –      and therefore incapably –
administered by persons whose sole claim to
consideration was that they could command
influence. His own phrase for describing briefly
this approach to all social, political and economic
questions was “being a bit of a radical:” a
standpoint he was at pains to make abundantly
clear to all with whom he came in contact. As it
happened, he always seemed to find people who
would put up with him; and, usually, people
who would employ him. In fact, at his own level,
he must have had more “influence” than most
persons. He did not, however, answer the
enquiries, and counter-proposals, put forward
in a reply to his letter sent to the address in the
Isle of Man; and, for the time being, no more
was heard of his marriage, or any other of his
activities.

                        *

Settling down with Templer at school was
easier than I had expected. Without Stringham,
he was more expansive, and I began to hear
something of his life at home. His father and
uncle (the latter of whom – for public services
somewhat vaguely specified – had accepted a
baronetcy at the hands of Lloyd George, one of
the few subjects upon which Templer showed
himself at all sensitive) had made their money
in cement. Mr. Templer had retired from
business fairly recently, after what his son
called “an appalling bloomer over steel.” There
were two sisters: Babs, the eldest of the family,
who towards the end of the war had left a
husband in one of the dragoon regiments in
favour of a racing motorist; and Jean, slightly
younger than her brother. Their mother had
died some years before I came across Templer,
who displayed no photographs of his family, so
that I knew nothing of their appearance.
Although      not colossally rich, they were
certainly not poor; and whatever lack of
appreciation Peter’s father may at one moment
have shown regarding predictable fluctuations
of his own holdings in the steel industry, he still
took a friendly interest in the market; and, by
Peter’s account, seemed quite often to guess
right. I also knew that they lived in a house by
the sea.
     “Personally I wouldn’t mind having a look at
Kenya,” said Templer, when I described the
luncheon with Stringham and his mother.
     “Stringham didn’t seem to care for the
idea.”
     “My elder sister had a beau who lived in the
Happy Valley. He shot himself after having a lot
of drinks at the club.”
     “Perhaps it won’t be so bad then.”
     “Did you lunch with them in London or the
country?”
     “London.”
     “Stringham says Glimber is pretty, but too
big,”
     “Will he come into it?”
     “Good Lord, no,” said Templer. “It is only
his mother’s for life. He will come into precious
little if she goes on spending money at her
present rate.”
     I was not sure how much of this was to be
believed; but, thinking the subject of interest,
enquired further. Templer sketched in a
somewhat lurid picture of Mrs. Foxe and her
set. I was rather surprised to find that he
himself had no ambition to become a member
of that world, the pleasures of which sounded of
a kind particularly to appeal to him.
     “Too much of a good thing,” he said. “I have
simpler tastes.”
     I    was    reminded       of    Stringham’s
disparagement of Buster on the ground that he
was “too grand;” and also of the reservations he
had expressed regarding Templer himself.
Clearly some complicated process of sorting-out
was in progress among those who surrounded
me: though only years later did I become aware
how early such voluntary segregations begin to
develop; and of how they continue throughout
life. I asked more questions about Templer’s
objection to house-parties at Glimber. He said:
“Well, I imagine it was all rather pompous even
at lunch, wasn’t it?”
     “Buster seemed rather an ass. His mother
was awfully nice.”
    Even at the time I felt that the phrase was
not a very adequate way of describing Mrs
Foxe’s forceful, even dazzling, characteristics.
    “Oh, she is all right, I have no doubt,” said
Templer. “And damned good-looking still. She
gav e Stringham’s sister absolute hell, though,
until she married the first chap that came
along.”
    “Who was he?”
    “I can’t remember his name. A well-known
criminal with one arm.”
    “Stringham certainly seemed in bad form
when she was there.”
    “She led his father a dance, too.”
    “Still, he need not join in all that if he
doesn’t want to.”
    “He will want to,” said Templer. “Take my
word for it, he will soon disappear from sight so
far as we are concerned.”
    Armed, as I have said, with the knowledge
of Stringham’s admission regarding his own
views on Templer, I recognised that there must
be some truth in this judgment of Stringham’s
character; (though some of its implications –
notably with regard to myself – I failed, rather
naturally, to grasp at that period. That was the
only occasion when I ever heard Templer speak
seriously about Stringham, though he often
used to refer to escapades in which they had
shared, especially the incident of Le Bas’s
arrest.
     So far as Templer and I were concerned,
nothing further had taken place regarding this
affair, though Templer’s relations with Le Bas
continued to be strained. Although so little
involved personally in the episode, I found
myself often thinking of it. Why, for example,
should Stringham, singularly good-natured,
have chosen to persecute Le Bas in this
manner? Was it a matter for regret or
congratulation: had it, indeed, any meaning at
all? The circumstances revealed at once
Stringham’s      potential assurance, and the
inadequacy of Le Bas’s defences. If Stringham
had been brutal, Le Bas had been futile. In spite
o f his advocacy of the poem, Le Bas had not
learned its lesson:
     “And then we turn unwilling feet
      And seek the world – so must it be
      –
      We may not linger in the heat
      Where breaks the blue Sicilian sea!”
    He was known for a long time after as
“Braddock alias Thorne,” especially among his
colleagues, whose theory was that the hoaxer
had recently left the school, and, while passing
through the town, probably in a car, had
decided to tease Le Bas. Certainly Stringham
would never have been thought capable of such
an enormity by any master who had ever come
in contact with him. Not unnaturally, however,
Le Bas’s tendency to feel that the world was
against him was accentuated by an experience
in many ways humiliating enough; and he
persecuted Templer – or, at least, his activities
in this direction were represented by Templer
as persecution – more energetically than ever.
    Finally Templer’s habitual carelessness
gave Le Bas an opportunity to close the
account. This conclusion was the result of
Templer leaving his tobacco pouch – on which,
characteristically, he had inscribed his initials –
lying on the trunk of a tree somewhere among
the fields where we had happened on Le Bas.
Cobberton, scouting round that neighbourhood,
had found the pouch, and passed it on to Le
Bas. Nothing definite could be proved against
Templer: not even the ownership of the half-
filled tobacco pouch, though no one doubted it
was his. However, Le Bas moved heaven and
earth to be rid of Templer, eventually
persuading the headmaster to the view that life
would be easier for both of them if Templer left
the school. In consequence, Peter’s father was
persuaded to remove him a term earlier than
previously intended. This pleased Templer
himself, and did not unduly ruffle his father;
who was reported to take the view that schools
and universities were, in any case, waste of
time and money: on the principle that an office
was the place in which to learn the realities of
life. And so I was left, as it seemed to me, alone.
     Templer was not a great hand at letter-
writing after his departure; though an
occasional picture post-card used to arrive,
stating his score at the local golf tournament, or
saying that he was going to Holland to learn
business methods. Before he left school, he had
suggested several times that I should visit his
home, always qualifying his account of the
amusements there offered by a somewhat
menacing picture of his father’s habitually
cantankerous behaviour. I did not take these
warnings about his father too seriously because
of Templer’s tendency to impute bad temper to
anyone placed in a position of authority in
relation to himself. At the same time, I had the
impression that Mr. Templer might be a
difficult man to live with; I even thought it
possible that Peter’s dealings with Le Bas might
derive from experience of similar skirmishes
with his father. Peter’s chief complaint, so far as
his father was concerned, seemed directed not
towards any violent disagreement between
them in tastes, or way of life, so much as to the
fact that his father, in control of so much more
money than himself, showed in his son’s eyes
on the whole so little capacity for putting this
favourable situation to a suitable advantage.
“Wait till you see the car we have to use for
station work,” Peter used to say. “Then you will
understand what sort of a man my father is.”
    The invitation arrived just when the
mechanical accessories of leaving school were in
full swing. Later in the summer it had been
arranged that, before going up to .the
university, I should spend a period in France;
partly with a view to learning the language:
partly as a solution to that urgent problem –
inviting one’s own as much as other people’s
attention – of the disposal of the body of one of
those uneasy, stranded beings, no longer a boy
and hardly yet a man. The Templer visit could
be fitted in before the French trip took place.
    Stringham’s letters from Kenya reported
that he liked the place better than he had
expected. They contained drawings of people
met there, and of a horse he sometimes rode.
He could not really draw at all, but used a
convention of blobs and spidery lines, effective
in expressing the appearance of persons and
things. One of these was of Buster selling a car;
another of Buster playing polo. I used to think
sometimes of the glimpse I had seen of
Stringham’s life at home; and – although this
did not occur to me at once – I came in time to
regard his circumstances as having something
in common with those of Hamlet. His father
had, of course, been shipped off to Kenya rather
than murdered; but Buster and his mother
were well adapted to play the parts of Claudius
and Gertrude. I did not manage to get far
beyond this, except to wonder if Miss Weedon
was a kind of female Polonius, working on
Hamlet’s side. I could well imagine Stringham
stabbing her through the arras. At present
there was no Ophelia. Stringham himself had a
decided resemblance to the Prince of Denmark;
or, as Templer would have said: “It was the
kind of part the old boy would fancy himself in.”

                        *

At first sight the Templers’ house seemed to be
an enormously swollen villa, red and gabled,
facing the sea from a small park of Scotch firs: a
residence torn by some occult power from more
appropriate suburban setting, and, at the same
time, much magnified. It must have been built
about twenty or thirty years before, and, as we
came along the road, I saw that it stood on a
piece of sloping ground set about a quarter of a
mile from the cliff’s edge. The clouded horizon
and olive-green waves lapping against the
stones made it a place of mystery in spite of
this outwardly banal appearance: a sea-palace
for a version of one of those embarkation
scenes of Claude Lorraine – the Queen of
Sheba, St. Ursula, or perhaps The Enchanted
Castle – where any adventure might be
expected.
    There were a pair of white gates at the
entrance to the drive, and a steep, sandy ascent
between laurels. At the summit, the green
doors of a row of garages faced a cement
platform. As we drove across this open space a
girl of about sixteen or seventeen, evidently
Peter’s unmarried sister, Jean, was closing one
of the sliding doors. Fair, not strikingly pretty,
with long legs and short, untidy hair, she
remained without moving, intently watching us,
as Peter shut off the engine, and we got out of
the car. Like her legs, her face was thin and
attenuated, the whole appearance given the
effect of a much simplified – and somewhat
self-conscious – arrangement of lines and
planes, such as might be found in an Old Master
drawing, Flemish or German perhaps, depicting
some young and virginal saint; the racket, held
awkwardly at an angle to her body, suggesting
at the same time an obscure implement
associated with martyrdom. The expression of
her face, although sad and a trifle ironical, was
n o t altogether in keeping with this air of
belonging to another and better world. I felt
suddenly uneasy, and also interested: a desire
to be with her, and at the same time, an almost
paralysing disquiet at her presence. However,
any hopes or fears orientated in her direction
were quickly dissolved, because she hardly
spoke when Peter introduced us, except to say
in a voice unexpectedly deep, and almost, as
harsh as her brother’s: “The hard court needs
resurfacing.”
    Then she walked slowly towards the house,
humming to herself, and swinging her racket at
t h e grass borders. Peter shouted after her:
“Has Sunny arrived yet?.”
     “He turned up just after you left.”
     She made this answer without turning her
head. It conveyed no implication of disapproval;
no enthusiasm either. I watched her disappear
from sight.
     “Leave your stuff here,” said Peter.
“Someone is bound to collect it. Let’s have some
tea. What bloody bad manners my sisters
have.”
     Wearing a soft hat squashed down in the
shape of a pork-pie, he already showed signs of
having freed himself from whatever remaining
restraints school had imposed. He had spent a
month or two in Amsterdam, where his father
had business interests. Mr. Templer’s notion
was that Peter should gain in this way some
smattering of commercial life before going into
the City; as all further idea of educating or
improving his son had now been abandoned by
him. Peter could give no very coherent account
of Dutch life, except to say that the canals smelt
bad, and that there were two night-clubs which
were much better than the others in that city.
Apart from such slightly increased emphasis on
characteristics already in evidence, he was
quite unchanged.
    “Who is Sunny?”
    “He is called Sunny Farebrother, a friend of
my father’s. He was staying in the
neighbourhood for a funeral and has come over
to talk business.”
    “Your father’s contemporary?”
    “Oh, no,” said Peter. “Much younger. Thirty
or thirty-five. He is supposed to have done well
in the war. At least I believe he got rather a
good D.S.O.”
    The name “Sunny Farebrother” struck me
as almost redundant in its suggestion of clear-
cut, straightforward masculinity. It seemed
hardly necessary for Peter to add that someone
with a name like that had “done well” in the
war, so unambiguous was the portrait conjured
up by the syllables. I imagined a kind of super-
Buster, in whom qualities of intrepidity and
simplicity of heart had been added to those of
dash and glitter.
    “Why is he called Sunny?” I asked,
expecting some confirmation of this imaginary
personality with which I had invested Mr.
Farebrother.
    “Because his Christian name is Sunderland,”
said Peter. “I expect we shall have to listen to a
lot of pretty boring conversation between the
two of them.”
    We entered the house at a side door. The
walls of the greater part of the ground floor
were faced with panelling, coloured and grained
like a cigar-box. At the end of a large hall two
men were sitting on a sofa by a tea-table at
which Jean was pouring out cups of tea. The
elder of this couple, a wiry, grim little fellow,
almost entirely bald, and smoking a pipe, was
obviously Peter’s father. His identity was
emphasised by the existence of a portrait of
himself in the room – representing its subject in
a blue suit and hard white collar. The canvas,
from the hand of Isbister, the R.A. had been
tackled in a style of decidedly painful realism,
the aggressive nature of the pigment intensified
by the fact that each feature had been made to
appear a little larger than life.
    “Hallo, Jenkins,” said Mr. Templer, raising
his hand. “Have some tea. Pour him out some
tea, Jean. Well, go on, Farebrother – but try
and stick to the point this time.”
    He turned again to the tall, dark man sitting
beside him. This person, Sunny Farebrother
presumably, had shaken hands warmly, and
given a genial smile when I approached the
table. At Mr. Templer’s interpellation, this
smile faded from his face in a flash, being
replaced by a look of almost devotional
intensity; and, letting drop my hand with
startling suddenness, he returned to what
seemed to be a specification of the terms and
bearings of a foreign loan – apparently
Hungarian – which he and Mr. Templer had
evidently been discussing before our arrival.
Jean handed me the plate of buttered toast,
and, addressing herself to Peter, spoke once
more of the hard tennis court.
    During tea I had an opportunity of
examining Sunny Farebrother more closely. His
regular features and ascetic, serious manner
did remind me in some way of Buster, curiously
enough: though scarcely for the reasons I had
expected. In spite of neatness and general air of
being well-dressed, Farebrother had none of
Buster’s consciously reckless manner of facing
the world; while, so far from dispensing
anything that might be interpreted as an
attitude of indirect hostility, his demeanour –
e v e n allowing for the demands of a proper
respect for a man older than himself and at the
same time his host – appeared to be almost
unnecessarily ingratiating. I was not exactly
disappointed with the reality of someone whose
outward appearance I had, rather absurdly,
settled already in my mind on such slender
grounds; but I was surprised, continuing to feel
that I should like to know more of Sunny
Farebrother. The train of thought engendered
by this association with Buster took me on,
fairly logically, to Miss Weedon; and, for a
second, it even occurred to me that some trait
possessed in common by Buster and Miss
Weedon linked both of them with Sunny
Farebrother; the two latter being the most
alike, ridiculous as it might sound, of the three.
This was certainly not on account of any
suggestion, open or inadequately concealed,
that Farebrother’s temperament was feminine
in any abnormal manner, either physically or
emotionally; on the contrary; though Miss
Weedon for her part might perhaps lay claim to
some remotely masculine air. It was rather that
both had in common some smoothness, an
acceptance that their mission in life was to iron
out the difficulties of others: a recognition that,
for them, power was won by self-abasement.
    Sunny Farebrother’s suit, though well cut,
was worn and a trifle dilapidated in places. The
elbows of the coat were shiny, and, indeed, his
whole manner suggested that he might be in
distinctly straitened circumstances. I imagined
him a cavalryman – something about his long
legs and narrow trousers suggested horses –
unable to support the expenses of his regiment,
unwillingly become a stockbroker, or agent for
some firm in the City, in an attempt to make
two ends meet; though I learnt later that he
had never been a regular soldier. With folded
hands and head bent, he was listening,
attentively, humbly – almost as if his life
depended on it – to the words that Mr.
Templer was speaking.
    Years later, when I came to know Sunny
Farebrother pretty well, he always retained for
m e something of this first picture of him; a
vision – like Jean’s – that suggested an almost
saintly figure, ill-used by a coarse-grained
world: some vague and uncertain parallel with
Colonel Newcome came to mind, in the colonel’s
latter days in the Greyfriars almshouses, and it
was easy to imagine Mr. Farebrother
answering his name in such a setting, the last
rays of sunset falling across his, by then,
whitened hair. Everything about him supported
claims to such a role: from the frayed ends of
the evening tie that he wore later at dinner, to
the immensely battered leather hat-box that
was carried through the Hall with the rest of his
luggage while we sat at tea. He seemed to feel
some explanation for the existence of this last
object was required, saying that it contained
the top-hat he had recently worn at his great-
uncle’s funeral, adding that it was the headgear
that normally hung on a hook in his office for
use as part of the uniform of his calling in the
City.
    “It cost me a tidy sum in lost business to
pay that last tribute,” he said. “But there aren’t
many of that grand old fellow’s sort left these
days. I felt I ought to do it.”
    Mr. Templer, his hands deep in his trousers
pockets, took scarcely any notice of such asides.
He discoursed instead, in a rasping undertone,
of redemption dates and capital requirements.
Jean finished what she had to say to Peter
regarding the hard tennis court, then scarcely
spoke at all. Later she went off on her own.
    This introduction to the Templer household
was fairly representative of its prevailing
circumstances for the next few days. Mr.
Templer was gruff, and talked business most of
the time to Sunny Farebrother: Jean kept to
herself: Peter and I bathed, or lounged away
the day. I discovered that Peter’s account of his
lack of accord with his father had been much
exaggerated. In reality, they understood each
other well, and had, indeed, a great deal in
common. Mr. Templer possessed a few simple
ideas upon which he had organised his life; and,
on the whole, these ideas had served him well,
largely because they fitted in with each other,
and were of sufficiently general application to
be correct perhaps nine times out of ten. He
was very keen on keeping fit, and liked to
describe in detail exercises he was in the habit
of performing when he first rose from his bed in
the morning. He was always up and about the
house long before anyone else was awake, and
he certainly looked healthy, though not young
for his age, which was somewhere in the sixties.
Sunny Farebrother continued to impress me as
unusually agreeable; and I could not help
wondering why he was treated by the
Templers with so little consideration. I do not
mean that, in fact, I gave much thought to this
matter; but I noticed from time to time that he
seemed almost to enjoy being contradicted by
Mr. Templer, or ignored by Jean, whom he
used to survey rather hungrily, and attempt,
without       much success, to engage in
conversation. In this, as other respects, Jean
remained in her somewhat separate world.
Peter used to tease her about this air of existing
remote from everything that went on round
her. I continued to experience a sense of being
at once drawn to her, and yet cut off from her
utterly.
    The party was increased a few days after
my arrival by the addition of the Striplings –
that is to say Peter’s married sister, Babs, and
her husband, the racing motorist – who
brought with them a friend called Lady
McReith. These new guests radically altered
the tone of the house. Babs was good-looking,
with reddish fair hair, and she talked a lot, and
rather loudly. She was taller than Jean, without
her sister’s mysterious, even melancholy
presence. Sitting next to her at dinner there
was none of the difficulty that I used to
experience in getting some scraps of
conversation from Jean. Babs seemed very
attached to Peter and asked many questions
about his life at school. Her husband, Jimmy
Stripling, was tall and burly. He wore his hair
rather long and parted in the middle. Like his
father-in-law he was gruff in manner, and
alw ay s looked beyond, rather than at, the
person he was talking to. Uncle Giles was, at
that period, the only grumbler I had ever met
a t all comparable in volume: though Stripling,
well- equipped financially for his pursuit of
motor-racing, had little else in common with
my uncle.
     It is not unusual for people who look
exceptionally robust, and who indulge in
hobbies of a comparatively dangerous kind, to
suffer from poor health. Stripling belonged to
this category. On that account he had been
unable to take an active part in the war; unless
– as Peter had remarked – persuading Babs to
run away with him while her husband was at
the front might be regarding as Jimmy having
“done his bit.” This was no doubt an unkind
way of referring to what had happened; and, if
Peter’s own account of Babs’s early married life
was to be relied upon, there was at least
something to be said on her side, as her first
husband, whatever his merits as a soldier, had
been a far from ideal husband. It was, however,
unfortunate from Stripling’s point of view that
his forerunner’s conduct had been undeniably
gallant; and this fact had left him with a
consuming hatred for all who had served in the
armed forces. Indeed, anyone who mentioned,
ev en casually, any matter that reminded him
that a war had taken place was liable to be
treated by him in a most peremptory manner;
although, at the same time, all his topics of
conversation seemed, sooner or later, to lead to
this subject. His state of mind was perhaps the
outcome of too many persons like Peter having
made the joke about “doing his bit.” In
consequence of this attitude he gave an
impression of marked hostility towards Sunny
Farebrother.
    In spite of the circumstances of their
marriage, outward relations between the
Striplings were cool, almost formal; and the link
which seemed most firmly to bind them
together was, in some curious manner, vested
in the person of their friend Lady McReith,
known as “Gwen,” a figure whose origins and
demeanour suggested enigmas that I could not,
in those days, even attempt to fathom. In the
first place I could form no idea of her age. When
she came into the room on their arrival, I
thought she was a contemporary of Jean’s: this
was only for a few seconds, and immediately
after I supposed her to be nine or ten years
older; but one afternoon, strolling across the
lawn from tennis, when the air had turned
suddenly cold and a chilly breeze from the sea
had swept across the grass, she had shivered
and changed colour, her face becoming grey and
mottled, almost as if it were an old woman’s.
She was tall, though slightly built, with dark
hair over a fair skin, beneath which the veins
showed: her lips always bright red. Something
about her perhaps hinted vaguely of the stage,
or at least what I imagined theatrical people to
be like. This fair skin with the blue veins
running across had a look of extraordinary
softness.
    “She was married to a partner of my
father’s,” Peter said, when questioned. “He had
a stroke and died ten days after he was
knighted – a remarkable instance of delayed
shock.”
    Although appearing to accept her as in some
manner necessary for the well-being of their
household, Jimmy Stripling seemed less
devoted than his wife to Lady McReith. There
was a certain amount of ragging between them,
and Stripling liked scoring off her in
conversation: though, for that matter, he liked
scoring off anyone. Babs, on the other hand,
seemed never tired of walking about the lawn,
or through the rose garden, arm in arm with
Lady McReith; and demonstrative kissing took
place between them at the slightest
provocation.
    Lady McReith was also on excellent terms
with the Templer family, especially Peter. Even
Mr. Templer himself sometimes took her arm,
and led her into dinner, or towards the drink
tray in the evening. Sunny Farebrother,
however, evidently regarded her without
approval, though he was always scrupulously
polite: so much so that Lady McReith was often
unable to do more than go off into peals of
uncontrollable laughter when addressed by
him: the habit of giggling being one of her most
pronounced characteristics. Personally, I found
her rather alarming, chiefly because she talked,
when she spoke at all, of people and things I
had never heard of. The Striplings were always
laughing noisily at apparently pointless
remarks made by her on the subject of
acquaintances possessed by them in common.
Apart from this banter, she had little or nothing
to say for herself; and, unlike Jean, her silences
suggested to me no hidden depths. Mr.
Templer used to say: “Come on, Gwen, try and
behave for once as if you were grown-up,” a
request always followed by such immoderate
fits of laughter from Lady McReith that she was
left almost helpless. At dinner there would te
exchanges between herself and Peter:
     “Why aren’t you wearing a clean shirt to-
night, Peter?”
     “I thought this one would be clean enough
for you.”
     “You ought to keep your little brother up to
the mark, Babs.”
    “He is always very grubby, isn’t he?”
    “What about those decomposing lip-sticks
Gwen is always leaving about the house? They
make the place look like the ladies’ cloak-room
in a third-rate night-club.”
    “Do you spend much of your time in the
ladies’ cloakrooms of third-rate night-clubs,
Peter? What a funny boy you must be.”
    Sunny Farebrother gave the impression of
being not at all at his ease in the midst of this
rough-and-tumble, in which he was to some
degree forced to participate. Mr. Templer fell
from time to time into fits of moroseness which
made his small-talk at best monosyllabic: at
worst, drying up all conversation. He treated
his son-in-law with as little ceremony as he did
Farebrother; evidently regarding the discussion
of serious matters with Stripling as waste of
time. He was, however, prepared to listen to
Farebrother’s views – apparently sensible
enough – on how best to handle the difficulties
of French reoccupation of the Ruhr (which had
taken place earlier in the year), especially in
relation to the general question of the shortage
of pig-iron on the world market. When on one
occasion Farebrother ventured to change the
subject and give his opinion regarding
professional boxing, Mr. Templer went so far as
to say: “Farebrother, you are talking through
your hat. When you have watched boxing for
forty years, as I have, it will be quite soon
enough to start criticising the stewards of the
National Sporting.”
    Sunny Farebrother showed no sign of
resenting this capricious treatment. He would
simply nod his head, and chuckle to himself, as
if in complete agreement; after a while giving
up any attempt to soothe his host, and trying to
join in whatever was happening at the other
end of the table. It was at such moments that
he sometimes became involved in cross-fire
between Peter, Lady McReith, and the
Striplings. I was not sure how often the
Striplings had met Sunny Farebrother in the
past. Each seemed to know a good deal about
the other, though they remained on distant
terms. Stripling making hardly an effort to
conceal his dislike. They would sometimes talk
about City matters, in which Stripling took an
interest that was probably of a rather
amateurish sort; for it was clear that
Farebrother rarely agreed with his judgment,
even when he outwardly concurred. After these
mild contradictions, Stripling would raise his
eyebrows and make faces at Farebrother
behind his back. Farebrother showed no more
sign of being troubled by this kind of behaviour
than by Mr. Templer’s gruffness; but he
sometimes adopted a manner of exaggerated
good-fellowship towards Stripling, beginning
sentences addressed to him with the words:
“Now then, Jimmy —”: and sometimes making
a sweeping dive with his fist towards Stripling’s
diaphragm, as if in a playful effort to
disembowel him. It was not Stripling so much
as Lady McReith, and to a lesser degree, Babs,
who      seemed     to    make      Farebrother
uncomfortable. I decided – as it turned out,
correctly – that this was a kind of moral
disapproval, and that some puritan strain in
Farebrother rebelled against Lady McReith
especially.
    One evening, when Mr. Templer had come
suddenly out of one of his gloomy reveries, and
nodded curtly to Babs to withdraw the women
from the dining-room, Sunny Farebrother
jumped up to open the door, and, in the
regrouping of seats that took place when we sat
down again, placed himself next to me. The
Templers, father and son, had begun to discuss
w i t h Stripling the jamming of his car’s
accelerator Farebrother shifted the port in my
direction without pouring himself out a second
glass. He said: “Did I understand that your
father was at the Peace Conference?”
    “For a time.”
    “I wonder if he and I were ever in the same
show.”
    I described to the best of my ability how my
father had been wounded in Mesopotamia; and,
after a spell of duty in Cairo, had been sent to
Paris at the end of the war: adding that I had
no very certain idea of the nature of his work.
Farebrother seemed disappointed that no
details were available on this subject; but he
continued to chat quietly of the Conference, and
of the people he had run across when he had
worked there himself.
    “Wonderfully interesting people,” he said.
“After a time one thought nothing of lunching
with, for example, a former Finance Minister of
Rumania, as a matter of fact we reached the
stage of my calling him ‘Hilarion’ and he calling
me ‘Sunny.’ I met Monsieur Venizelos with him
on several occasions.”
    I expressed the respect that I certainly felt
for an appointment that brought opportunity to
enjoy such encounters.
    “It was a different world,” said Sunny
Farebrother.
    He spoke with more vehemence than usual;
and I supposed that he intended to imply that
hobnobbing with foreign statesmen was greatly
preferable to touting for business from Peter’s
father. I asked if the work was difficult.
    “When they were kind enough to present
me with an O.B.E. at the end of it,” said
Farebrother, “I told them I should have to
wear it on my backside because it was the only
medal I had ever won by sitting in a chair.”
    I did not know whether it was quite my
place either to approve or to deprecate this
unconventional hypothesis, daring in its
disregard for authority (if “they” were
superiors immediately responsible for the
conferment of the award) and, at the same
time, modest in its assessment of its expositor’s
personal merits. Sunny Farebrother had the
happy gift of suggesting by his manner that one
had known him for a long time; and I began to
wonder whether I had not, after all, been right
in supposing that his nickname had been
acquired from something more than having
been named “Sunderland.” There was a
suggestion of boyishness – the word “sunny”
would certainly be applicable – about his frank
manner; but in spite of this manifest desire to
get along with everyone on their own terms,
there was also something lonely and
inaccessible about him. It seemed to me,
equally, that I had not been so greatly mistaken
in the high-flown estimate of his qualities that I
had formed on first hearing his name, and of his
distinguished record. However, before any
pronouncement became necessary on the
subject of the most appropriate region on which
to distribute what I imagined to be his many
decorations, his voice took on a more serious
note, and he went on: “The Conference was, of
course, a great change from the previous three
and a half years, fighting backwards and
forwards over the Somme and God knows
where else – and fighting damned hard, too.”
    Jimmy Stripling caught the word “Somme,”
because his mouth twitched slightly, and he
began chopping at a piece of pine-apple rind on
his plate: though continuing to listen to his
father-in-law’s diagnosis of the internal
troubles of the Mercedes.
    “Going up to the university?” Farebrother
asked, “In October.”
    “Take my advice,” he said. “Look about for
a good business opening. Don’t be afraid of hard
work. That was what I said to myself when the
war was over – and here we are.”
    He laughed; and I laughed too, though
without knowing quite why anything should
have been said to cause amusement.
Farebrother had the knack, so it seemed to me,
of making others feel that they were in some
conspiracy with him; though clearly that was
not how he was regarded by the Striplings.
When Peter had asked the day before: “What
do you think of old Sunny?” I had admitted that
Farebrother had made a good impression as a
man-of-the-world who was at the same time
mild and well disposed: though I had not
phrased my opinion quite in that way to Peter,
in any case never greatly interested in the
details of what people thought about each
other. Peter had laughed even at the guarded
amount of enthusiasm I had revealed.
    “He is a downy old bird,” Peter said. “Is he
very hard up?”
    “I suppose he is doing just about as nicely in
the City as anyone could reasonably expect.”
    “I thought he looked a bit down at heel?”
    “That is all part of Sunny’s line. You need
not worry about him. I may be going into the
same firm. He is a sort of distant relation, you
know, through my mother’s family.”
    “He and Jimmy Stripling don’t care for each
other much, do they?”
    “To tell the truth, we all pull Sunny’s leg
when he comes down here,” said Peter. “He’ll
stand anything because he likes picking my
father’s brains, such as they are.” This picture
of Sunny Farebrother did not at all agree with
that which I had formed in my own mind; and I
should probably have been more shocked at the
idea of teasing him if I had entirely believed all
Peter had been saying. The fact that I was not
prepared fully to accept his commentary was
partly because I knew by experience that he
was in the habit of exaggerating about such
matters: and, even more, because at that age
(although one may be prepared to swallow all
kinds of nonsense of this sort or that) personal
assessment of individuals made by oneself is
hard to shake: even when offered by those in a
favourable position to know what they are
talking about. Besides, I could hardly credit the
statement that Peter himself – even abetted by
Jimmy Stripling – would have the temerity to
r a g someone who looked like Sunny
Farebrother, and had his war record. However,
later on in the same evening on which we had
talked together about the Peace Conference, I
was given further insight into the methods by
which the Stripling-Farebrother conflict was
carried on.
     Mr. Templer always retired early. That
night he went upstairs soon after we had left
t h e dining-room. Jean had complained of a
headache, and she also slipped off to bed.
Jimmy Stripling was lying in an arm-chair with
his legs stretched out in front of him. He was an
inch or two over six foot, already getting a bit
fleshy, always giving the impression of taking
up more than his fair share of room, wherever
he might be standing or sitting. Farebrother
was reading The Times, giving the sports page
that special rapt attention that he applied to
everything he did. Babs and Lady McReith
were sitting on the sofa, looking at the same
illustrated paper. Farebrother came to the end
of the column, and before putting aside the
paper shook down the sheets with his
accustomed tidiness of habit to make a level
edge. He strolled across the room to where
Peter was looking through some gramophone
records, and I heard him say: “When you come
to work in London, Peter, I should strongly
recommend you to get hold of a little gadget I
make use of. It turns your collars, and reduces
laundry bills by fifty per cent.”
     I did not catch Peter’s reply; but, although
Farebrother had spoken quietly, Stripling had
noticed this recommendation. Rolling round in
his chair, he said: “What is that about cutting
down your laundry bill, Sunny?”
     “Nothing to interest a gentleman of leisure
like yourself, Jimmy,” said Farebrother, “but
we poor City blokes find it comes pretty hard
on white collars. They have now invented a
little patent device for turning them. As a
matter of fact a small company has been
formed to put it on the market.”‘
     “And I suppose you are one of the
directors,” said Stripling.
     “As a matter of fact I am,” said
Farebrother. “There are one or two other little
odds and ends as well; but the collar-turner is
going to be the winner in my opinion,”
    “You thought you could plant one on
Peter?”
    “If Peter has got any sense he’ll get one.”
    “Why not tackle someone of your own size?”
    “I’ll plant one on you, Jimmy, once you see
it work,”
    “I bet you don’t.”
    “You get some collars then.”
    The end of it was that both of them went off
to their respective rooms, Stripling returning
with a round leather collar-box; Farebrother
with a machine that looked like a pair of horse-
clippers made from wood. All this was
accompanied with a great deal of jocularity on
Stripling’s part. He came downstairs again first,
and assured us that “Old Sunny’s leg was going
to be well and truly pulled.” Babs and Lady
McReith now began to show some interest in
what was going on. They threw aside The
T atler and each put up her feet on the sofa.
Farebrother stood in the centre of the room
holding the wooden clippers. He said: “Now you
give me one of your collars, Jimmy.”
    The round leather box was opened, and a
collar was inserted into the jaws of the machine.
Farebrother closed the contraption forward
along the edge of the collar. After proceeding
about two inches, there was a ripping sound,
and the collar tore. It was extracted with
difficulty. Everyone roared with laughter.
     “What did 1 say?” said Stripling.
     “Sorry, Jimmy,” said Farebrother. “That
collar must have been washed too often.”
     “But it was practically new,” said Stripling.
“You did it the wrong way.”
     Stripling chose a collar, and himself ran the
clippers along it. They slipped from his grip
half-way down, so that the collar was caused to
fold more or less diagonally.
     “Your collars are a different shape from
mine,” Farebrother said. “They don’t seem to
have the same ‘give’ in them.”
     Farebrother had another try, with results
rather similar to his first attempt; and, after
t h a t , everyone insisted on making the
experiment. The difficulty consisted in holding
the instrument tight and, at the same time,
running it straight. Babs and Lady McReith
both crumpled their collars: Peter and I tore
ours on the last inch or so of the run. Then
Farebrother tried again, bringing off a perfect
turn.
     “There you are,” he said. “What could be
better than that?”
     However, as three collars were ruined and
had to be thrown into the waste-paper basket,
and three more had to be sent to the laundry,
Stripling was not very pleased. Although the
u t ilit y of Farebrother’s collar-turner had
certainly been called into question, he evidently
felt that to some extent the joke had been
turned against him.
     “It is something about your collars, old
boy,” Farebrother repeated. “It is not at all
easy to make the thing work on them. It might
pay you in the long run to get a more expensive
kind.”
     “They are damned expensive as it is,” said
Stripling. “Anyway, quite expensive enough to
have been made hay of like this.”
     However, everyone, including his wife, had
laughed a great deal throughout the various
efforts to make the machine work, so that,
angry as he was, Stripling had to let the matter
rest there. Farebrother, I think, felt that he had
not provided a demonstration very satisfactory
from the commercial point of view, so that his
victory over Stripling was less complete on this
account than it might otherwise have seemed.
Soon after this he went upstairs, carrying the
collar-turner with him, and saying that he had
“work to do,” a remark that was received with
a certain amount of facetious comment, which
he answered by saying: “Ah, Jimmy, I’m not a
rich man like you. I have to toil for my daily
bread.”
    Stripling was, no doubt, glad to see him go.
He probably wanted time to recover from what
he evidently looked upon as a serious defeat
over the collars. Peter turned on the
gramophone, and Stripling retired to the corner
of the room with him, where while Stripling’s
temper cooled they played some game with
matches. It was soon after this that I made a
decidedly interesting discovery about Lady
McReith, who had begun to discuss dance steps
with Babs, while I looked through some of the
records that Peter had been arranging in piles.
In order to illustrate some point she wanted to
make about fox-trotting, Lady McReith
suddenly jumped from the sofa, took my arm
and, sliding it round her waist, danced a few
steps. “Like this?” she said, turning her face
towards Babs; and then, as she continued to
cling to me, tracing the steps back again in the
other direction: “Or like that?” The transaction
took place so swiftly, and, so far as Lady
McReith was concerned, so unselfconsciously,
that Peter and Stripling did not look up from
their game; but – although employed merely as
a mechanical dummy – I had become aware,
with colossal impact, that Lady McReith’s
footing in life was established in a world of
physical action of which at present I knew little
or nothing. Up to that moment I had found her
almost embarrassingly difficult to deal with as a
fellow guest: now the extraordinary
smoothness with which she glided across the
polished boards, the sensation that we were
holding each other close, and yet, in spite of
such proximity, she remained at the same time
aloof and separate, the pervading scent with
which she drenched herself, and, above all, the
feeling that all this offered something further,
some additional and violent assertion of the will,
was – almost literally – intoxicating. The
revelation was something far more universal in
implication than a mere sense of physical
attraction towards Lady McReith. It was
realisation, in a moment of time, not only of her
own possibilities, far from inconsiderable ones,
but also of other possibilities that life might
hold; and my chief emotion was surprise.
    This incident was, of course, of interest to
myself alone, as its importance existed only in
my own consciousness. It would never have
occurred to me to discuss it with Peter,
certainly not in the light in which it appeared to
myself, because to him the inferences would – I
now realised – have appeared already so self-
evident that he would have been staggered by
my own earlier obtuseness: an obtuseness
which he would certainly have disparaged in his
own forceful terms. Keen awareness of Peter’s
point of view on the subject followed logically on
a better apprehension of the elements that
went towards forming Lady McReith as a
personality: a personality now so changed in
my eyes. However, all that happened was that
we danced together until the record came to an
end, when she whirled finally round and threw
herself down again on the sofa, where Babs still
lay: and a second later put her arm round
Babs’s neck. Stripling came across the room
and poured out for himself another whisky. He
said: “We must find some way of ragging old
Sunny. He is getting too pleased with himself by
half.”
    Lady McReith went off into such peals of
laughter at this, wriggling and squeezing, that
Babs, freeing herself, turned and shook her
until she lay quiet, still laughing, at last
managing to gasp out: “Do think of something
really funny this time, Jimmy.” I asked what
had happened on earlier occasions when Sunny
Farebrother had been ragged. Peter outlined
some rather mild practical jokes, none of which,
in retrospect, sounded strikingly amusing.
Various suggestions were made, but nothing
came of them at the moment; though the
discussion might be said to have laid the
foundation for a scene of an odd kind enacted
on the last night of my stay.

                       *

Looking back at the Horabins’ dance that took
place on that last night, the ball itself seemed
merely a prelude to the events that followed. At
the time, the Horabins’ party itself was
important enough, not only on account of the
various sequels enacted on our return to the
Templers’ house – fields in which at that time I
felt myself less personally concerned, and,
therefore, less interested – but because of the
behaviour of Jean Templer at the dance,
conduct which to some extent crystallised in
my own mind my feelings towards her; at the
same time precipitating acquaintance with a
whole series of emotions and apprehensions,
the earliest of numberless similar ones in due
course to be undergone. The Horabins for long
after were, indeed, momentous to me simply
for that reason. As it happens, I cannot even
remember the specific incident that clarified, in
some quite uncompromising manner, the
positive recognition that Jean might prefer
someone else’s company to my own; nor, rather
unjustly, did the face of this superlatively lucky
man – as he then seemed – remain in my mind
a year or two later. I have, however, little
doubt that the whole matter was something to
do with cutting a dance; and that the partner
she chose, in preference to myself, persisted
dimly in my mind as a figure certainly older,
and perhaps with a fair moustache and reddish
face. Even if these circumstances are described
accurately, it would undoubtedly be true to say
that nothing could be less interesting than the
manner in which Jean’s choice was brought
home to me. There was not the smallest reason
to infer from anything that had taken place in
the course of my visit that I possessed any sort
of prescriptive rights over her: and it may well
b e that the man with the moustache had an
excellent claim. Such an argument did not
strike me at the time; nor were the
disappointment and annoyance, of which I
suddenly became aware in an acute degree,
tempered by the realisation, which came much
later, that such feelings – like those
experienced during the incident with Lady
McReith – marked development                  in
transmutation from one stage of life to another.
    One of the effects of this powerful, and in
some ways unexpected, concentration on the
subject of Jean at the dance was to distract my
attention from everything not immediately
connected with her; so that, by the time we
were travelling home, several matters that
must have been blowing up in the course of the
evening had entirely escaped my notice. I was
in the back of a chauffeur-driven car, Peter by
the far window, and Lady McReith between us.
I was conscious that for the first part of the
drive these two were carrying on some sort of
mutual conflict under the heavy motoring rug
that covered the three of us; but I had not
noticed how or why she had become separated
from the Striplings. Probably the arrangement
had something to do with transport to their
homes of some other guests who had dined at
the Templers’ house for the ball.
    Whatever the reason, one of the
consequences of the allotment of seats had been
t hat Jean and Sunny Farebrother had been
carried in the Striplings’ Mercedes. We rolled
along under the brilliant stars, even Peter and
Lady McReith at last silent, perhaps dozing:
though like electric shocks I could feel the
almost ceaseless vibration of her arm next to
mine, quivering as if her body, in spite of sleep,
knew no calm.
    I did not feel at all anxious to retire to bed
when we arrived at the house. On the following
day I was to travel to London. Farebrother was
going on the same train. We were making a late
start in order to rest on a little into the morning
after the exertions of the ball. Peter, for once,
seemed ready for bed, saying good night and
g oing straight upstairs. The Striplings had
arrived before us, and were shifting about
restlessly, talking of “raiding the kitchen,”
bacon and eggs, more drink, and, in general,
showing unwillingness to bring the party to an
end. Lady McReith asserted that she was worn
out. Sunny Farebrother, too, was evidently
anxious to get some sleep as soon as possible.
They went off together up the stairs. Finally
Babs found her way to the kitchen, and
returned with some odds and ends of food: that
would for the time postpone the need to bring
the right’s entertainment to a close. Her
husband walked up and down, working himself
up into one of his rages against Sunny
Farebrother, who had, it appeared, particularly
annoyed him on the drive home. Jean had at
first gone up to her room; but on hearing voices
below came downstairs again, and joined the
picnic that was taking place.
    “Did you hear what he said about the car on
the way back?” Stripling asked. “Like his ruddy
cheek to offer advice about the acceleration. He
himself is too mean to have anything but an old
broken-down Ford that you couldn’t sell for
scrap-iron; and he doesn’t even take that round
with him, but prefers to cadge lifts.”
    “Have you seen Mr. Farebrother’s
luggage?” said Jean. “It is all piled up outside
his room ready to go down to the station first
thing in the morning. It looks as if he were
going big-game hunting.”
    I wondered afterwards whether she said
this with any intention of malice. There was not
any sign on her part of a desire to instigate
trouble; but it is not impossible that she was
the true cause of the events that followed.
Certainly this remark was responsible for her
sister saying: “Let’s go and have a look at it.
Jimmy might get an idea for one of his jokes.
Anyway, I’m beginning to feel it’s time for bed.”
    There was, undeniably, a remarkable load
of baggage outside Farebrother’s bedroom
door: several suitcases; a fishing rod and
landing net; a cricket bat and pads; a tennis
racket in a press; a gun case; and a black tin
box of the kind in which deeds are stored,
marked in white paint: “Exors: Amos
Farebrother Esquire.” On the top of this edifice
of objects, on the whole ancient, stood the
leather hat-box, said by its owner to contain
the hat required by tradition for City ritual.
Babs pointed to this. Her husband said: “Yes –
and have you seen it? A Jewish old clothes man
would think twice about wearing it.”
    Stripling tiptoed to the hat-box, and,
releasing the catch, opened the lid, taking from
within a silk hat that would have looked
noticeably dilapidated on an undertaker.
Stripling inspected the hat for several seconds,
returned it to the box, and closed the lid;
though without snapping the fastening.
Lowering his voice, he said: “Get out of sight
where you can all watch. I am going to arrange
for old Sunny to have a surprise when he
arrives at the office.”
    My room was next to Peter’s at one end of
the passage: Farebrother’s half-way down: the
Striplings slept round the corner beyond. Jean
was somewhere farther on still. Stripling said:
“It is a pity Gwen and Peter won’t be able to
see this. They will enjoy hearing about it. Find a
place to squint from.”
    He nodded to me, and I moved to my room,
from where I regarded the passage through a
chink in the door. Stripling, Babs and Jean
passed on out of sight; and I suppose the two
women remained in the intersecting passage, in
a place from which they could command a view
of Farebrother’s luggage. I waited for at least
five minutes, peering through the crack of the
barely open door. It was daylight outside, and
the passages were splashed with patches of
vivid colour, where the morning sun streamed
through translucent blinds. I continued to
watch for what seemed an age. I had begun to
feel very sleepy, and the time at last appeared
so long that I was almost inclined to shut the
door and make for bed. And then, all at once,
Jimmy Stripling came into sight again. He was
stepping softly, and carried in his hand a small
green chamber-pot.
    As he advanced once more along the
passage, I realised with a start that Stripling
proposed to substitute this object for the top-
hat in Farebrother’s leather hat-box. My
immediate thought was that relative size might
prevent this plan from being put successfully
into execution; though I had not examined the
inside of the hat-box, obviously itself larger
than normal (no doubt built to house more
commodious hats of an earlier generation), the
cardboard interior of which might have been
removed to make room for odds and ends. Such
economy of space would not have been out of
keeping with the character of its owner. In any
case it was a point upon which Stripling had
evidently satisfied himself, because the slight
smile on his face indicated that he was
absolutely certain of his ground. No doubt to
make an even more entertaining spectacle of
what he was about to do, he shifted the china
receptacle from the handle by which he was
carrying it, placing it between his two hands,
holding it high in front of him, as if it were a
sacrificial urn. Seeing it in this position, I
changed my mind about its volume, deciding
that it could indeed be contained in the hat-box.
However, before this question of size and shape
could be settled one way or the other,
something happened that materially altered the
course that events seemed to be taking;
because Farebrother’s door suddenly swung
open, and Farebrother himself appeared, still
wearing his stiff shirt and evening trousers, but
without a collar. It occurred to me that perhaps
he knew of some mysterious process by which
butterfly collars, too, could be revived, as well
a s those of an up-and-down sort, and that he
was already engaged in metamorphosing the
evening collar he had worn at the Horabins’.
     Stripling was taken completely by surprise.
He stopped dead: though without changing the
position of his hands, or the burden that they
carried. Then, no doubt grasping that scarcely
any other action was open to him, he walked
sharply on down the passage, passing my door
and disappearing into the far wing of the house,
where Mr. Templer’s room was situated. Sunny
Farebrother watched him go, but did not speak
a word. If he were surprised, he did not show it
beyond raising his eyebrows a little, in any case
a fairly frequent facial movement of his.
Stripling, on the other hand, had contorted his
features in such a manner that he looked not so
much angry, or thwarted, as in actual physical
pain. When he strode past me, I could see the
sweat shining on his forehead, and at the roots
of his rather curly hair. For a moment
Farebrother continued to gaze after him down
the passage, as if he expected Stripling’s return.
Then, with an air of being hurt, or worried, he
shut his door very quietly. I closed mine too, for
I had begun to feel uncommonly tired.

                        *

Peter was in the garden, knocking about a golf
ball with his mashie, when I found him the
following day. Although late on in the morning,
no one else had yet appeared from their rooms.
I was looking forward to describing the scene
Peter had missed between Farebrother and
Stripling. As I approached he flicked his club at
the ball, which he sent in among the fir trees of
the park. While we walked towards the place
where it fell, I gave some account of what had
happened after he had retired upstairs on
returning from the dance. We found the ball in
some bracken, and Peter scooped it back into
t h e centre of the lawn, where it lay by the
sundial. To my surprise he seemed scarcely at
all interested in what had seemed to me one of
the most remarkable incidents I had ever
witnessed. I thought this attitude might
perhaps be due to the fact that he felt a march
had been stolen on him for once; though it
w o u l d have been unlike him to display
disappointment in quite that manner.
     “I suppose I really ought to have slipped
into your room and warned you that something
was on.”
     “You might not have found me,” he said.
     “Why not?”
     “I might not have been there.” His eyes
began their monotonous, tinny glistening. I saw
that he was very satisfied with himself about
something: what was this secret cause for
complacency, I did not immediately grasp. I
made no effort to solve the enigma posed by
him. We talked about when we should meet
again, and the possibility of having a party in
London with Stringham at Christmas. “Don’t
spoil the French girls,” said Peter. It was only
by the merest chance that a further aspect of
t h e previous evening’s transactions was
brought to my notice: one which explained
Peter’s evident air of self-satisfaction. The time
had come for us to catch our train. Neither the
Striplings nor Lady McReith had yet appeared,
but Peter’s father was pottering about and said:
“I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself, Jenkins, and
that it hasn’t been too quiet for you. Peter
complains there is never anything to do here.”
    Jean said good-bye.
    “I hope we meet again.”
    “Oh, yes,” she said, “we must.”
    Just as I was getting into the car, I
remembered that I had left a book in the
morning-room.
    “I’ll get it,’’ said Peter. “I know where it is.”
    He went off into the house, and I followed
him, because I had an idea that its whereabouts
was probably behind one of the cushions of the
arm-chair in which I had been sitting. As I
came through the door, he was standing on the
far side of the morning-room, looking about
among some books and papers on a table. He
was not far from another door on the opposite
side of the room, and, as I reached the
threshold, this farther door was opened by
Lady McReith. She did not see me, and stood
for a second smiling at Peter, but without
speaking. Then suddenly she said: “Catch,” and
impelled through the air towards him some
small object. Peter brought his right hand down
sharply and caught, within the palm, whatever
had been thrown towards him. He said:
“Thanks, Gwen. I’ll remember next time.”
    I saw now that he was putting on his wrist-
watch. By this time I was in the room, and
making for the book – Winter Comes – which
lay on one of the window-seats. I said good-bye
to Lady McReith, who responded with much
laughter, and Peter returned with me to the
car, saying: “Gwen is quite mad.” Sunny
Farebrother was still engaged in some final
business arrangement with Mr. Templer, which
he brought to a close with profuse thanks. We
set out together on the journey to the station.
    The manner of Lady McReith’s return of
Peter’s watch was the outward, and visible sign
to me of his whereabouts after we had returned
from the Horabins’. The fact that an incisive
step of one sort or another had been taken by
him in relation to Lady McReith was almost
equally well revealed by something in the air
when they spoke to each other: some definite
affirmation which made matters, in any case,
explicit enough. The propulsion of the watch
was merely a physical manifestation of the
same thing. In the light of Peter’s earlier
remark on the subject of absence from his room
during the attempted ragging of Sunny
Farebrother, this discovery did not perhaps
represent anything very remarkable in the way
of intuitive knowledge: especially in view of
L a d y McReith’s general demeanour and
conversational approach to the behaviour of her
friends. At the same time – as in another and
earlier of Peter’s adventures of his kind – his
enterprise was displayed, confirming my
conception of him as a kind of pioneer in this
increasingly familiar, though as yet still largely
unexplored, country. It was about this time
that I began to think of him as really a more
forceful character than Stringham, a possibility
that would never have presented itself in
earlier days of my acquaintance with both of
them.
    These thoughts were cut short by Sunny
Farebrother, who whispered to me (though two
sheets of glass divided us from the chauffeur):
“Were you going to give this chap anything?”
Rather surprised at his curiosity on this point, I
admitted that two shillings was the sum I had
had in mind. I hoped he would not think that I
ought to have suggested half a crown. However,
he nodded gravely, as if in complete approval,
and said: “So was I; but I’ve only got a bob in
change. Here it is. You add it to your florin and
say it’s from both of us.”
    When the moment came, I forgot to do
more than hand the coins to the chauffeur, who,
perhaps retaining memories of earlier visits, did
not appear to be unduly disappointed. In spite
of the accumulation of luggage, extraordinary
ex er t ions on Farebrother’s part made it
possible to dispense with the assistance of a
porter.
    “Got to look after the pennies, you know,”
he said, as we waited for the train. “I hope you
don’t travel First Class, or we shall have to part
company.”
    As no such difficulty arose, we found a Third
Class compartment to ourselves, and stacked
the various items of Farebrother’s belongings
on the racks. They almost filled the carriage.
    “Got to be prepared for everything,” he
said, as he lifted the bat and pads. “Do you play
this game?”
    “Not any longer.”
    “I’m not all that keen on it nowadays
myself,” he said. “But a cricketer always makes
a good impression.”
    For about three-quarters of an hour he read
The Times. Then we began to talk about the
Templers, a subject Farebrother introduced by
a strong commendation of Peter’s good
qualities. This favourable opinion came as
something of a surprise to me; because I was
accustomed to hear older persons speak of
Peter in terms that almost always suggested
improvement was absolutely necessary, if he
were to come to any good in life at all. This was
not at all the view held by Farebrother, who
appeared to regard Peter as one of the most
promising young men he had ever run across.
Much as I liked Peter by that time. I was quite
unable to see why anything in his character
should appeal so strongly to Farebrother,
whose       own      personality was becoming
increasingly mysterious to me.
    “Peter should do well,” Farebrother said.
“He is a bit wild. No harm in that. He knows his
way about. He’s alive. Don’t you agree?”
    This manner of asking one’s opinion I had
already noticed, and found it flattering to be
treated without question as being no longer a
schoolboy.
    “Of course his father is a fine old man,”
Farebrother went on. “A very fine old man. A
hard man, but a fine one.”
    I wondered what had been the result of
their business negotiations together, in which so
much hardness and fineness must have been in
operation. Farebrother had perhaps begun to
think of this subject too, for he fell into silence
for a time, and sighed once or twice; at last
remarking: “Still, I believe I got the best of him
this time.”
    As that was obviously a matter between
him and his host, I did not attempt to comment.
A moment later, he said: “What did you think of
Stripling?”
    Again I was flattered at having my opinion
asked upon such a subject; though I had to
admit to myself that on the previous night I
had been equally pleased when Stripling had, as
it were, associated me with his projected baiting
of Farebrother. Indeed, I could not help feeling,
although the joke had missed fire, that I was
not entirely absolved from the imputation of
being in some degree guilty of having acted in
collusion with Stripling on that occasion. I was
conscious, therefore, unless I was to appear in
my own eyes hopelessly double-dealing, that
some evasive answer was required.
Accordingly, although I had not much liked
Stripling, I replied in vague terms, adding some
questions about the relative success of his
motor-racing.
    “I don’t really understand the fellow,”
Farebrother said. “I quite see he has his points.
He has plenty of money. He quite often wins
those races of his. But he always seems to me a
bit too pleased with himself.”
    “What was Babs’s first husband like?”
    “Quite a different type,” said Farebrother,
though without particularising.
    He lowered his voice, just as he had done in
the car, though we were still alone in the
compartment.
    “A rather curious thing happened when we
got in from that dance last night,” he said. “As
y ou know, I went straight up to my room. I
started to undress, and then I thought I would
just cast my eye over an article in The
Economist that I had brought with me. I find
my brain seems a bit clearer for that kind of
thing late at night.”
    He paused for a moment, and shook his
head, suggesting much burning of midnight oil.
Then he went on: “I thought I heard a good
deal of passing backwards and forwards and
what sounded like whispering in the passage.
Well, one year when I stayed with the
Templers they made me an apple-pie bed, and
I thought something like that might be in the
wind. I opened the door. Do you know what I
saw?”
     At this stage of the story I could not
possibly admit that I knew what he had seen,
s o there was no alternative to denial, which 1
made by shaking my head, rather in
Farebrother’s own manner. I had begun to feel
a little uncomfortable.
     “There was Stripling, marching down the
passage holding a jerry in front of him as if he
were taking part in some ceremony.”
     I shook my head again; this time as if in
plain disbelief. Farebrother was not prepared to
let the subject drop. He said: “What could he
have been doing?”
     “I can’t imagine.”
     “He was obviously very put out at my
seeing him. I mean, what the hell could he have
been doing?”
     Farebrother leant forward, his elbows on his
knees, confronting me with this question, as if
he were an eminent counsel, and I in the
witness box,
    “Was it a joke?”
    “That was what I thought at first; but he
looked quite serious. Of course we are always
hearing that his health is not good.”
    I tried to make some non-committal
suggestions that might throw light on what had
happened.
    “Coupled with the rest of his way of going
on,” said Farebrother, “it made a bad
impression.”
    We passed on towards London. When we
parted company Sunny Farebrother gave me
one of his very open smiles, and said: “You
must come and lunch with me one of these
days. No good my offering you a lift as I’m
heading Citywards.” He piled his luggage, bit by
bit, on to a taxi; and passed out of my life for
some twenty years.

                       *
3
BEING IN LOVE is a complicated matter;
although anyone who is prepared to pretend
that love is a simple, straightforward business
is always in a strong position for making
conquests. In general, things are apt to turn out
unsatisfactorily for at least one of the parties
concerned; and in due course only its most
determined devotees remain unwilling to admit
that an intimate and affectionate relationship is
not necessarily a simple one: while such
persistent enthusiasts have usually brought
their own meaning of the word to something far
different from what it conveys to most people
in early life. At that period love’s manifestations
are less easily explicable than they become
later: often they do not bear that complexion of
being a kind of game, or contest, which, at a
later stage, they may assume. Accordingly,
when I used to consider the case of Jean
Templer, with whom I had decided I was in
love, analysis of the situation brought no relief
from uneasy, almost obsessive thoughts that
filled my mind after leaving the Templers’
house. Most of all I thought of her while the
train travelled across France towards Touraine.
     The journey was being undertaken in fiery
sunshine. Although not my first visit to France,
this was the first time I had travelled alone
there. As the day wore on, the nap on the
covering of the seats of the French State
Railways took on the texture of the coarse skin
of an over-heated animal: writhing and
undulating as if in an effort to find relief from
the torturing glow. I lunched in the restaurant
car, and drank some red vin ordinaire that
tasted unexpectedly sour. The carriage felt
hotter than ever on my return: and the train
more crowded. An elderly man with a straw
hat, black gloves, and Assyrian beard had taken
my seat. I decided that it would be less trouble,
and perhaps cooler, to stand for a time in the
corridor. I wedged myself in by the window
between a girl of about fifteen with a look of
intense concentration on her pale, angular
features, who pressed her face against the
glass, and a young soldier with a spectacled,
thin countenance, who was angrily explaining
some political matter to an enormously fat
priest in charge of several small boys. After a
while the corridor became fuller than might
have been thought possible. I was gradually
forced away from the door of the compartment,
and found myself unstrategically placed with a
leg on either side of a wicker trunk, secured by
a strap, the buckle of which ran into my ankle,
as the train jolted its way along the line. All
around were an immense number of old women
in black, one of whom was carrying a feather
mattress as part of her luggage.
    At first the wine had a stimulating effect;
but this sense of exhilaration began to change
after a time to one of heaviness and despair.
My head buzzed. The soldier and the priest
were definitely having words. The girl forced
her nose against the window, making a small
circle of steam in front of her face. At last the
throbbings in my head became so intense that I
made up my mind to eject the man with the
beard. After a short preliminary argument in
which I pointed out that the seat was a
reserved one, and, in general, put my case as
well as circumstances and my command of the
language would allow, he said briefly:
“Monsieur, vous avez gagne ” and accepted
dislodgment with resignation and some dignity.
In the corridor, he moved skilfully past the
priest and his boys; and, with uncommon agility
for his age and size, climbed on to the wicker
trunk, which he reduced almost immediately to
a state of complete dissolution: squatting on its
ruins reading Le Figaro. He seemed to know
the girl, perhaps his daughter, because once he
leaned across and pinched the back of her leg
and made some remark to her; but she
continued to gaze irritably out at the passing
landscape, amongst the trees of which an
occasional white chateau stood glittering like a
huge birthday cake left out in the woods after a
picnic. By the time I reached my destination
there could be no doubt whatever that I was
feeling more than a little sick.
    The French family with whom I was to stay
was that of a retired infantry officer,
Commandant Leroy, who had known my father
in Paris at the end of the war. I had never met
him, though his description, as a quiet little man
dominated by a masterful wife, was already
familiar to me; so that I hoped there would be
n o difficulty in recognising Madame Leroy on
the platform. There was, indeed, small doubt as
to her identity as soon as I set eyes on her. Tall
and stately, she was dressed in the deepest
black. A female companion of mature age
accompanied her, wearing a cone-shaped hat
trimmed with luxuriant artificial flowers. No
doubt I was myself equally unmistakable,
because, even before descending passengers
had cleared away, she made towards me with
eyebrows raised, and a smile that made me
welcome nor only to her own house, but to the
whole of France. I shook hands with both of
them, and Madame Leroy made a gesture, if
not of prevention and admonition, at least of a
somewhat deprecatory nature, as I took the
hand of the satellite, evidently a retainer of
some sort, who removed her fingers swiftly,
and shrank away from my grasp, as if at once
offended and fearful. After this practical
repudiation of responsibility for my arrival,
Rosalie, as she turned out to be called, occupied
herself immediately in some unfriendly verbal
exchange with the porter, a sickly-looking
young man Madame Leroy had brought with
her, who seemed entirely under the thumb of
these, two females, emasculated by them of all
aggressive traits possessed by his kind.
     After various altercations with station
officials, all more or less trifling, and carried off
victoriously by Madame Leroy, we climbed into
a time-worn taxi, driven by an ancient whose
moustache and peaked cap gave him the air of a
Napoleonic grenadier, an elderly grognard,
fallen on evil days during the Restoration,
depicted in some academic canvas of patriotic
intention. Even when stationary, his taxi was
afflicted with a kind of vehicular counterpart of
St. Vitus’s dance, and its quaverings and
seismic disturbances must have threatened
nausea to its occupants at the best of times. On
that afternoon something far less convulsive
w ould have affected me adversely; for the
weather outside the railway station seemed
warmer even than on the train. The drive
b e g a n , therefore,       in      unfavourable
circumstances as far as my health was
concerned: nor could I remember for my own
use any single word of French: though happily
retaining some measure of comprehension
when remarks were addressed to me.
    M a d a m e Leroy had evidently been a
handsome proposition in her youth. At sixty, or
thereabouts, she retained a classical simplicity
of style: her dimensions comprehensive, though
well proportioned: her eye ironical, but not
merciless. She seemed infinitely prepared for
any depths of poverty in the French language,
keeping up a brisk line of talk, scarcely seeming
to expect an answer to questions concerning
the health of my parents, the extent of my
familiarity with Paris, the heat of the summer
in England, and whether crossing the Channel
had spoiled a season’s hunting. Rosalie was the
same age, perhaps a little older, with a pile of
grey hair done up on the top of her head in the
shape of a farmhouse loaf, her cheeks cross-
hatched with lines and wrinkles like those on
the side of Uncle Giles’s nose: though traced out
here on a larger scale. From time to time she
muttered distractedly to herself: especially
when clouds of white dust from the road blew in
at the window, covering us with blinding,
smarting powder, at the same time obscuring
even more thoroughly the cracked and scarred
windscreen, which seemed to have had several
bullets put through it in the past: perhaps
during the retreat from Moscow. With much
stress, and grunting of oaths on the part of the
veteran, the car began to climb a steep hill: on
one of the corners of which it seemed
impossible that the engine would have the
power to proceed farther. By some means,
however, the summit was achieved, and the
taxi stopped, with a final paroxysm of vibration,
in front of a door in a whitewashed wall. This
wall, along the top of which dark green creeper
hung, ran for about fifty yards along the road,
joining the house, also white, at a right-angle.
    “Voilà”       said Madame Leroy. “La
Grenadière.” Below the hill, in the middle
distance, flowed the river, upon which the sun
beat down in stripes of blue and gold. Along its
banks minute figures of a few fishermen could
just be seen. White dust covered all
surrounding vegetation; and from a more solid
and durable form of this same white material
the house itself seemed to have been
constructed. The taxi still throbbed and
groaned and smelt very vile. To vacate it for
the road brought some relief. Madame Leroy
led the way through the door in the wall in the
manner of a sorceress introducing a neophyte
into the land of faërie: a parallel which the
oddness of the scene revealed by her went
some way to substantiate.
    We entered a garden of grass lawns and
untidy shrubs, amongst the stony paths of
which a few rusty iron seats were dotted about.
In one corner of this pleasure ground stood a
summer-house, covered with the same creeper
that hung over the outer wall, and hemmed in
by untended flower beds. At first sight there
seemed to be a whole army of people, including
children, wandering about, or sitting on the
seats, reading, writing, and talking. Madame
Leroy, like Circe, moved forward through this
enchanted garden, ignoring the inhabitants of
her kingdom as if they were invisible, and we
passed into the house, through a glass-panelled
door. The hall was as black as night, and I fell
over a dog asleep there, which took the accident
in bad part, and was the object of much
vituperation from Rosalie. Mounting several
flights of stairs, Madame Leroy still leading the
way, we at last entered a room on the top floor,
a garret containing a bed, a chair, and a basin,
with its accessories, in blue tin, set on a tripod.
A view of the distant river appeared once more,
through a port-hole in this austere apartment,
one wall of which was decorated with a picture,
in cheerful colours of St. Laurence and his
gridiron; intended perhaps in jocular allusion to
the springs of the bed. Rosalie, who had
followed us to the stairs bearing a small jug,
now poured a few drops of lukewarm water,
lightly tinted by some deposit, into the basin on
the tripod: intoning a brief incantation as she
did this. Madame Leroy stood by, waiting
apparently for this final ministration: and,
satisfied no doubt that I had become
irrevocably subject to her occult powers, she
now glided towards the door, having indicated
that we might meet again in the garden in due
course. As she retired, she said something
about “L’autre monsieur anglais” having the
bedroom next door. At that moment I could
scarcely have felt less interest in a compatriot.
    When the door shut, I lay for a time on the
bed. Something had gone wrong, badly wrong,
as a result of luncheon on the train. At first I
attributed this recurrent feeling of malaise to
the wine: then I remembered that some sort of
fish in the hors d’œuvres had possessed an
equivocal flavor. Perhaps heat and excitement
were the true cause of my feeling unwell. There
was a slight improvement after a lapse of about
twenty minutes, at the end of which time I rose
and peered through the port-hole on to a
landscape through which the river ran as
straight as a canal, among trees, and white
houses similar in size and shape to La
Grenadière. I washed my hands in the tin
basin, and set off, rather gingerly, down the
stairs.
    As I reached the hall, the door on the left
opened     suddenly,      and     Madame Leroy
reappeared. She smiled meaningly, as if to give
assurance of her satisfaction in accepting a new
catechumen; and pointed to the garden,
evidently with a view to undertaking further
preliminaries of initiation. We stepped out into
the evening sunshine, and, side by side, moved
towards the groups gathered together in knots
at different points on the grass: from one of
which her husband, Commandant Leroy, at
once detached himself and came towards us. He
was a small man, several inches shorter than
his wife, with dark blue glasses and a really
colossal moustache. Speaking good English (I
remembered he had been an interpreter) he
enquired about the journey, explaining that he
had been unable to come to the station because
his health was not good: he had been gassed,
though not seriously, he added, at one of the
German attacks on Ypres early in the war, and
he was suffering at present from pains in
various parts of his body. Madame Leroy heard
him with impatience: at length telling him
sharply to go and lie down. He shook hands
again, and pottered off towards the house.
Madame Leroy inclined her head, apparently to
express regret that control over her husband
e v e n after these many years, was still
incomplete. She told me that she had one son,
Emile, whom they saw occasionally because he
was an instructor at the Cavalry School at
Saumur: another, Marcel, serving in Morocco
with the Chasseurs d’Afrique: and a daughter,
Victorine, married to an army doctor in Saigon.
     “Une vraie famille de soldats”
     “Une vraie famille d’officiers” corrected
Madame Leroy, though not unkindly.
     We cruised about the garden. The persons
assembled there, a trifle less numerous than
had at first appeared, were of different
classification: some guests, some members of
the family. The next introduction was to
Berthe, one of the Leroy nieces, a plump
brunette, sitting on one of the seats, watching
life through sly, greenish eyes set far apart in a
face of fawn-coloured rubber. She was engaged,
Madame Leroy explained, to the son of the
Chef de Cabinet of the Sous-Secretaire de
Marine. Her aunt took this opportunity of
speaking a few improving words on the subject
of marriage in general, received by Berthe with
a tightly compressed smirk; and we passed on
to Suzette, another niece, who was writing
letters in mauve ink at one of the iron tables.
Suzette was small and fair, not a beauty, but
dispensing instantaneously, and generously,
emotional forces that at once aroused in me
recollections of Jean Templer; causing an
abrupt renewal – so powerful that it seemed
almost that Jean had insinuated herself into the
garden – of that restless sense of something
desired that had become an increasing burden
upon both day and night. Suzette shook hands
and smiled in such a manner as to put beyond
doubt, were the metaphor to be used, any
question of butter melting in the mouth. Then
she sat down again and continued her letter,
evidently a composition that demanded her
closest attention.
    Two boys, perhaps great-nephews,
followed, somewhere between nine and twelve
years of age, with strongly marked features,
broadly ironical like Madame Leroy’s, to whose
side of the family they belonged. Heavy black
eyebrows were grafted on to white faces, as if
to offset the pattern of dark blue socks against
sallow, skinny legs. Both were hard at work
with lexicons and note-books; and, after
shaking hands very formally, they returned to
work, without looking up again as we passed on
from their table. Their names were Paul-Marie
and Jean-Népomucène.
     Leaving these ramifications of the Leroy
household, we approached the outskirts of a
Scandinavian pocket in the local community,
first represented in the person of a tall young
man – in size about six foot three or four –
wearing a black suit, light grey cap, and white
canvas shoes, who was reading Les Misérables
with the help of a dictionary. This figure,
explained Madame Leroy, as I escaped from his
iron grip, was Monsieur Örn – so, at least, after
many changes of mind, I decided his name,
variously pronounced by his fellow boarders,
must be spelt, for, during the whole of my stay
at La Grenadière I never saw it written down –
who was a Norwegian, now learning French,
though in principle studying in his own country
to be an engineer. From Monsieur Örn’s vacant
blue eyes a perplexed tangle of marked
reactions seemed to signal uncertainly for a
second or two, and then die down. I had seen a
provincial company perform The Doll’s House
not many months before, and felt, with what I
now see to have been quite inadmissible
complacency, that I knew all about Ibsen’s
countrymen.
    As Monsieur Örn seemed to be at a loss for
words, we proceeded to Monsieur Lundquist, a
Swede in dark grey knickerbockers, mending a
bicycle.       Monsieur Lundquist, although
formality itself – he was almost as formal as
Paul-Marie and Jean-Népomucène had been –
was much more forthcoming than Monsieur
Örn. He repeated several times: “Enchanté,
Monsieur Yenkyns,” putting his heels together,
and holding his bicycle-pump as if it were a
sword and he were about to march past in
review, while he smiled and took Madame
Leroy’s hand in his after he had let go of my
own. His dark curly hair and round chubby face
gleamed in the sun, seeming to express
outwardly Monsieur Lundquist’s complete
confidence in his own powers of pleasing.
    As we strolled on towards the summer-
house, built with its entrance facing obliquely
from the centre of the lawn – if the central part
of the garden could really be so called –
Madame Leroy explained that within this
precinct would be found Monsieur and Madame
Dubuisson, who had been married only a short
time. Having called this fact to mind, she
tapped loudly on one of the supports of the
arbour before venturing to escort me through
its arch. After taking this precaution, she
advanced in front of me, and peeped through
one of the embrasures in the wall, pausing for a
moment, then beckoning me on, until at last we
entered the heart of the retreat in which the
Dubuissons were sitting side by side.
    Afterwards I discovered that Monsieur
Dubuisson was only about forty. At first sight
he struck me as much older, since the skin of
his face fell in diamond-shaped pouches which
appeared quite bloodless. Like Monsieur Örn,
he wore a cap, a very flat, very large, check cap,
with a long peak, like that in which apaches
used to be portrayed in French comic papers or
o n the stage. Under this headgear, rank and
greying, almost lavender-coloured hair
bunched out. He held a book on his knee, but
was not reading. Instead he sat gazing with a
look of immense and ineradicable scepticism on
his face, towards what could be seen of the
garden. His long upper lip and general carriage
made me think of a French version of the Mad
Hatter. His bride, a stocky little woman,
younger than her husband, was dressed in
white from head to foot: looking as if she had
prepared herself for an afternoon’s shopping in
Paris, but had decided instead to spend her
time knitting in the summer-house. This very
domestic occupation seemed scarcely to
harmonise with the suggestion – conveyed in
some manner by her face, even more than her
clothes – that she was not, temperamentally, a
domestic person: not, at any rate, in the usual
meaning of that term. As Stringham had said of
Peter Templer, she did not appear to be
intended by nature for “home life.” Whatever
domesticity      she    might possess seemed
superimposed on other, and perhaps more
predatory, characteristics.
    Though still feeling decidedly bilious, I had
done my best to make myself agreeable to each
of the persons in turn produced by Madame
Leroy; and, such is the extraordinary power of
sentiment at that age, the impact of Suzette’s
personality, with its reminder of Jean, had
made me forget for a while the consequences of
t he hors d’œuvres. However, when Monsieur
Dubuisson held out to me the book lying on his
knee, and said dryly, in excellent English: “I
should be interested to hear your opinion on
this rendering,” my head began to go round
again. The tide on the cover, Simples Contes
des Collines, for the moment conveyed nothing
to me. Fortunately Monsieur Dubuisson did not
consider it necessary to receive an answer to
his question, because, almost immediately, he
went on to remark: “I read the stories in
French merely as – as a matter of interest. For
you see I find no – no difficulty at all in
expressing myself in the language of the
writer.”
     The pauses were evidently to emphasise
the ease with which he spoke English, and his
desire to use the absolutely appropriate word,
rather than on account of ignorance of phrasing.
He went on: “I like Kipling. That is, I like him
up to a point. Naturally one finds annoying this
– this stress on nationalism. Almost blatant
nationalism, I should say.”
     All this conversation was now becoming a
little overwhelming. Madame Leroy, engaged
with Madame Dubuisson on some debate
regarding en pension terms, would in any case,
I think, have cut short the development of a
serious literary discussion, because she was
already showing indications of restlessness at
Monsieur Dubuisson’s continued demonstration
of his command of English. However, a new –
and for me almost startling – element at that
moment altered the temper of the party. There
was the sound of a step behind us, and an
additional personage came under the rustic
arch of the entrance, refocusing everyone’s
attention. I turned, prepared for yet another
introduction, and found myself face to face with
Widmerpool.
    Monsieur Dubuisson, quite shrewd in his
way, as I learnt later, must have realised at
once that he would have to wait for another
occasion to make his speech about Kipling,
because he stopped short and joined his wife in
her investigation of the en pension terms.
Possibly he may even have felt that his support
was required in order that the case for a
reduction might be adequately presented. It
was evidently a matter that had been discussed
between the three of them on a number of
earlier occasions, and, so soon as Madame
Leroy had spoken of the surprise and pleasure
that she felt on finding that Widmerpool and I
were already acquainted, she returned
vigorously to her contest with the Dubuissons.
    Widmerpool said in his thick, flat voice: “I
thought it might be you, Jenkins. Only yours is
such a common name that I could not be sure.”
    We shook bands, rather awkwardly.
Widmerpool had tidied himself up a little since
leaving school, though there was still a kind of
exotic drabness about his appearance that
seemed to mark him out from the rest of
mankind. At a later stage of our sojourn at La
Grenadière, he confided to me that he had
purchased several ties during an afternoon
spent in Blois. He was wearing one of these
cravats of the country when he came into the
summer-house, and its embroidered stripes
insinuated that he might not be English,
without adding to his appearance the least
suggestion of French origins. His familiar air of
uneasiness remained with him, and he still
spoke as if holding a piece of india-rubber
against the roof of his mouth. He also retained
his accusing manner, which seemed to suggest
that he suspected people of trying to worm out
of him important information which he was not,
on the whole, prepared to divulge at so cheap a
price as that offered. All this uncomfortable side
of him came into my mind, and I could: think of
nothing to say. Madame Leroy was now deeply
involved with the Dubuissons regarding the
subject      of     some       proposed financial
readjustment, and it looked as if the matter was
going to come to a head, one way or the other.
At last the three of them went off together,
talking hard. I was left alone with Widmerpool.
He did not speak.
    “How long have you been here?” I asked.
    He stared hard at me from the solid glass
windows through which he observed the world;
frowning as if some important canon of decency
had already been violated by my ineptitude:
and that this solecism, whatever it was, grieved
rather than surprised him. Then he said: “You
know we are supposed to talk Frenc h here,
Jenkins.”
    It was hard to guess how best to reply to
this admonition. To say: “Out, Widmerpool,”
would sound silly, even a trifle flippant; on the
other hand, to answer in English would be to
aggravate my incorrect employment of the
language; and might at the same time give the
appearance of trying to increase the temptation
for Widmerpool to relapse into his native
tongue, with which my arrival now threatened
to compromise him. In spite of his insignificance
at school, I still felt that he might possess claims
to that kind of outward deference one would
pay to the opinion of a boy higher up in the
house, even when there was no other reason
specially to respect his views. In any case the
sensation of nausea from which I had once
more begun to suffer seemed to be increasing in
volume, adding to the difficulty of taking quick
decisions in so complicated a question of the use
of language. After a long pause, during which he
appeared       to       be thinking things over,
Widmerpool spoke again.
    “It would probably be simpler,” he said, “if I
showed you round first of all in English. Then
we can talk French for the rest of the time you
are here.”
    “All right.”
    “But tell me in the first place how you knew
of La Grenadière?”
    I explained about Commandant Leroy and
my father. Widmerpool seemed disappointed at
this answer. I added that my parents had
thought the terms very                reasonable.
Widmerpool said: “My mother has always loved
Touraine since she visited this country as a girl.
And, of course, as you know, the best French is
spoken in this part of France.”
    I said I had heard a Frenchman question
that opinion; but Widmerpool swept this doubt
aside, and continued: “My mother was always
determined that I should perfect my French
among the chateaux of the Loire. She made
inquiries and decided that Madame Leroy’s
house was far the best of the several
establishments for paying-guests that exist in
the neighbourhood. Far the best.”
    Widmerpool sounded quite challenging; and
I agreed that I had always heard well of the
Leroys and their house. However, he would not
allow that there was much to be said for the
Commandant: Madame, on the other hand, he
much admired. He said: “I will take you round
the garden first, and introduce you.”
    “No, for Heaven’s sake – Madame Leroy
has already done that.”
    Widmerpool looked offended at this speech,
and seemed uncertain what should be the next
move. He temporised by asking: “What sort of
a journey did you have?”
    “Hot.”
    “You look a bit green.”
    “Let’s go into the house.”
    “Did you have a change,” he said. “I came
straight through by a clever piece of railway
management on my part.”
    “Where can I be sick?”
    “What do you mean?”
    “Where can I be sick?”
    At length he understood; and soon after
this, with many expressions of sympathy from
Madame Leroy, and some practical help from
Rosalie, who unbent considerably now that I
was established as a member of the household
– and an indisposed one – I retired to bed:
lying for a long time in a state of coma, thinking
about Widmerpool and the other people in the
garden. The images of Jean Templer and
Suzette hovered in the shadows of the room,
until they merged into one person as sleep
descended.

                        *

How all the inhabitants of La Grenadière were
accommodated in a house of that size was a
social and mathematical problem, so far as I
was concerned, never satisfactorily elucidated
during my stay there. I could only assume that
there were more bedrooms than passage doors
on the upper storeys, and that these rooms led
one from another. The dining-room was on the
left of the main entrance: the kitchen on the
right. In the sunless and fetid segment between
t h e s e two rooms, Rosalie presided during
meals, eating her own portion from a console
table that stood on one side of the hall, facing a
massive buhl cabinet on the other: the glass
doors of this cabinet revealed the ragged spines
of a collection of paper-backed novels. This
segregation in the hall symbolised Rosalie’s
footing in the house, by imposing physical
separation from her employers on the one
hand, and, on the other, from Marthe, a girl of
eighteen, showing signs of suffering from goitre,
who did the cooking: and did it uncommonly
well.
     Two dogs – Charley and Bum – shared with
Rosalie her pitchy vestibule: a state of
perpetual war existing between the three of
them. Charley was so named on account of the
really astonishing presumption that he looked
like an English dog: whereas his unnaturally
long brown body, short black legs, and white
curly tail, made it almost questionable whether
he was indeed a dog at all, and not a survival of
a low, and now forgotten, form of prehistoric
life. Bum, a more conventional animal, was a
white wire-haired terrier. He carried his name
engraved on a wide leather collar studded with
brass hob-nails. Every Monday he was placed
on a table in the garden, and Madame Leroy
would bathe him, until his crisp coat looked as if
it were woven from a glistening thread of white
pipe-cleaners. Charley was never washed, and
resenting this attention to his fellow, would on
this account pick a quarrel with Bum every
seven days. Rosalie was for ever tripping over
the dogs in the passage, and cursing them: the
dogs squabbling with each other and with
Rosalie: at times even stealing food from her
plate when she was handing on the next course
into the dining-room: where we all sat at a large
round table that nearly filled the room.
    Most of the talking at meals was done by
Madame Dubuisson, Berthe and Paul-Marie,
the last of whom was said, by almost everyone
w h o referred to him, to be unusually full of
esprit for his age: though I was also warned
that his remarks were sometimes judged to be
“un peu shocking.” When he spoke, his black
eyebrows used to arch, and then shoot
together, and a stream of words would pour
out, sending Madame Dubuisson and Berthe,
especially, into fits of laughter at his sallies.
These sometimes caused Madame Leroy to
shake her head in mild reproval: though
Madame Leroy herself would often smile
admiringly at the ease with which Paul-Marie
succeeded in hitting off life’s paradoxical
situations: especially those connected with the
relations of the sexes. For my own part I
understood only a small proportion of Paul-
Marie’s jokes on account of the speed with
w hich he spat out his sentences, and also
because of his colloquial manner of expressing
himself; but I gathered their general import,
which was to the effect that women, owing to
their cunning ways, were to be approached with
caution. Whether or not they were good jokes I
am now in no position to say. I imagine that
they belonged, on the whole, to that immense
aggregation of synthetic humour on this subject
that serves the French pretty well, being
adapted to most cases that arise. Indeed, Paul-
Marie’s synthetic jokes might perhaps be
compared      with     Uncle Giles’s synthetic
scepticism, both employable for many common
situations. Jean- Népomucène was much
quieter. With heavy-lidded eyes, he used to
watch his brother, and give a short, very
grown-up laugh at appropriate moments. Most
of the time at table Jean- Népomucène’s
manner was absent, suggesting that his mind
w a s engaged on preoccupations of his own,
perhaps of a similar order to his brother’s
reflections, but more gravely considered.
B e r t h e and Madame Dubuisson would
sometimes try and tease him about his silences,
saying: “Ah, Jean-Népomucène, il est bavard
lui,” in this way provoking a verbal attack from
Paul-Marie, which usually required their
combined forces to beat off.
     Commandant Leroy rarely spoke. His wife
kept him on a diet, and he sat, almost hidden,
behind a colossal bottle of Contrexeville water,
that always stood in front of him, from which,
after every meal, he took a few drops, mixed
with grey powder, in a spoon. Monsieur
Dubuisson also conversed little at meals, no
doubt because he felt his conversation wasted
in the intellectual surroundings available at La
Grenadière. He would, however, occasionally
read aloud some item of news from the papers
(his only extravagance seemed to be buying
newspapers), after which he would laugh
satirically as he qualified these quotations by
supplying details of the individual, country, or
political group, that provided funds for the
journal in question. He used to listen to Paul-
Marie’s chatter with a look of infinite sourness
on his face.
     The position of the Dubuissons at La
Grenadière always remained something of a
mystery. It was evident that they had come
there merely to enjoy a cheap holiday, and that
Monsieur Dubuisson considered that life owed
him something superior to the accommodation
to be found with the Leroys. Berthe and
Suzette used to have some joke together about
Madame Dubuisson, who was apparently held
to own a past not to be too closely scrutinised.
They were talking the matter over, in whispers,
one day, when sitting behind me on the way
back from an expedition to Loches. They
seemed to have no very definite information,
but their conclusions – as I rather dimly
understood them – seemed to be that Madame
Dubuisson had been her husband’s mistress for
a number of years: having at last induced him
to marry her. At that time such a subject,
illustrated by the practical circumstances of a
couple who seemed to me to be so lacking in
romance as the Dubuissons, appeared to be of
only the most academic interest: to have little
or nothing to do with the practical problems of
life. At a later date I should have been more
curious regarding their story. Madame
Dubuisson used to giggle, and behave generally
in a fairly free manner, especially when her
husband was not present; and I felt that – if an
analogy could be drawn between two such
different households – she represented at La
Grenadière something comparable to Lady
McReith’s position when staying at the
T e mple r s’ . Madame Dubuisson was, for
example, the guest whom Commandant Leroy
undoubtedly liked best, and the boys, too,
seemed to get on with her well. I never
discovered her husband’s occupation. It
appeared that – like Sunny Farebrother – he
had distinguished himself during the war: or, at
least, he mentioned this fact to me on one or
two occasions; and at one period he seemed to
have taught, or lectured, at some provincial
university. He said that at present he was in
business, but without specifying its nature.
    “I am a very busy man, building up for my
corporation, and trying to materialise along the
same lines a few ideas regarding the financing
of certain needs which actually are most
difficult to meet,” he remarked to me soon after
my arrival.
     He must have suspected that I required
further enlightenment before I could answer,
because he added: “I might even come to
London, when, and if, certain – certain
negotiations pending with British houses
mature.”
     I asked if he knew London well.
     “Probably better than yourself,” he replied,
“Being nearly at the head of a finance
corporation, I am trying to assure a certain
percentage of the insolvency risk which might
arise when I guarantee credits by endorsing
bills.”
     “I see.”
     “You must not think,” Monsieur Dubuisson
continued, smiling and showing a barrier of
somewhat discoloured teeth, “that I am merely
– merely a commercial gent. I am also
developing my activity as a newspaperman,
and publish weekly one, or a couple, of articles.
I hope to be circulated in England soon.”
    “Do you write in English?”
    “Of course.”
    I inquired about the subjects on which he
wrote. Monsieur Dubuisson said: “I sent lately
to the National Review a longish article entitled
‘Cash Payments; or Productive Guarantees?’
speaking my views on the actual and future
relations of France, Great Britain, and
Germany. I have had no answer yet, but I have
a manuscript copy I can lend you to read.”
    He paused; and I thanked him for this offer.
    “As a matter of fact I write along three very
different lines,” Monsieur Dubuisson went on.
“First as a financial expert: second, summaries
of     big problems looked upon from an
independent threefold point of view – political,
military, economic: finally in consideration of
the growth of the social idea in English
literature.”
    All this left me little, if at all, wiser on the
subject of the Dubuisson background, but there
could be no doubt that Monsieur Dubuisson had
plenty of confidence in his own qualifications.
Outwardly, he never showed much interest in
his wife, though they spent a good deal of their
time together: since neither of them took any
part in the collective recreations of La
Grenadière, such as the excursions to places of
interest in the neighbourhood. This lack of
public attention from her husband did not
appear to worry Madame Dubuisson at all. She
chattered away all the time to anyone who
happened to find themselves next to her; and
without any regard for the question of whether
or not her listener understood what she was
talking about: a habit perhaps acquired from
her husband.
    The two Scandinavians did not “get on” with
each other. Both Berthe and Suzette warned
me of this, in diplomatic terms, soon after I
came to La Grenadière. According to the girls,
Monsieur Örn complained that Monsieur
Lundquist was “too proud;” while Monsieur
Lundquist had actually stated openly that he
considered Monsieur Örn to be lacking in chic.
Monsieur Örn, like Monsieur Dubuisson, rarely
spoke, spending most of his time writing lists of
French words in a notebook. Berthe said that
Monsieur Örn had confided to her that all
Swedes were proud, often for no reason at all;
Monsieur Lundquist especially so, for no better
cause than that his father happened to be an
official at the Law Courts. Monsieur Lundquist
himself was going to become a journalist, and
Monsieur Örn had told Berthe that Monsieur
Lundquist was much inclined to exaggerate the
social position that this calling would bring him.
Although Monsieur Örn did not talk a great
deal, he would sometimes look sternly across
the table at Monsieur Lundquist, the whole of
his craggy face slowly setting into a gloomy,
hostile state: “comme un Viking,” Berthe used
to call this specially organised physiogonomy.
As a matter of fact Berthe had a weak spot for
Monsieur Örn, because he was so good at
tennis. If she happened to be cutting the melon
at luncheon, she would always give him the
largest slice, or help him generously to pot-au-
feu.
    Apart from his regret that Monsieur Örn
was so hopelessly ill-equipped so far as chic
was concerned – an opinion of which, I found,
he made no secret, expounding the view freely
to everyone in the house – Monsieur Lundquist
seemed quite unaware of the vigour of
Monsieur Örn’s disapproval of his own attitude
towards the world, which both of them agreed
to be characteristically Swedish; nor was he
prepared to accept Monsieur Örn’s repeated
assertions that he did not understand the
Swedish language. Monsieur Lundquist,
transgressing the rule of La Grenadière,
whenever he found his French inadequate to
make his meaning clear, would often make use
o f Swedish. Monsieur Örn would then listen,
adjusting his firm features in such a way as to
indicate utter failure to comprehend that such
outlandish – or, perhaps it was, such affected –
sounds could possibly have any meaning at all:
even for Swedes. Monsieur Örn would finally
make some remark in his notably individual
French, evidently wholly irrelevant to the
matter raised by Monsieur Lundquist. On such
occasions Monsieur Lundquist would only
smile, and shake his head, unable to credit
Monsieur Örn’s unvarying and oppressive lack
of chic.
     In this circle, Widmerpool had made himself
an accepted, if not specially popular, figure.
There was no question here of his being looked
upon by the rest of the community as the
oddity he had been regarded at school. In the
weeks that followed I came to know him pretty
well. We talked French to each other at meals,
and kept up some show of using French during
expeditions: alone together – usually late in the
evening, when the others had gone to their
rooms, to devote themselves to study, or to
rest – we used to speak English; although
Widmerpool rarely did so without making some
reference to the reluctance with which he
diverged from the rule of the house. He used to
work hard at the language all the rest of the
time. In spite of inherent difficulty in making
words sound like French, he had acquired a
l a r g e vocabulary, and could carry on a
conversation adequately, provided he could
think of something to say; for I found that he
had no interest in anything that could not be
labelled as in some way important or
improving, an approach to conversation that
naturally limited its scope. His determination to
learn French set an example from which I fell
lamentably short. In his rigid application to the
purpose for which he came to France, he was
undoubtedly the most satisfactory of Madame
Leroy’s boarders, even including the
industrious Monsieur Örn, who never could get
his genders right.
    Like Monsieur Dubuisson, Widmerpool
showed no enthusiasm for Paul-Marie’s jokes.
    “That boy has a corrupt mind,” he said, not
m a ny days after I had been in the house.
“Extraordinary for a child of that age. I cannot
imagine what would happen to him at an
English school.”
    “He’s like Stringham as a small French
boy.”
    I said this without thinking at all deeply
about the accuracy of the comparison. I did not,
in fact, find in Paul-Marie any startling
resemblance to Stringham, though some faint
affinity must have existed between them, in so
much that more than once I had thought of
Stringham, when Paul-Marie had been engaged
in one of his torrential outbursts of
conversation. However, Widmerpool showed
sudden interest in the identification of their two
characters.
     “You were rather a friend of Stringham’s,
weren’t you?” he asked. “Of course I was a bit
senior to know him. I liked the look of him on
the whole. I should say he was an amusing
fellow.”
     For Widmerpool to imply that it was merely
a matter of age that had prevented him from
being on easy terms with Stringham struck me,
at that time, as showing quite unjustifiable
complacency regarding his own place in life. I
still looked upon him as an ineffective person,
rather a freak, who had no claim to consider
himself as the equal of someone like Stringham
who, obviously prepared to live dangerously,
was not to be inhibited by the narrow bounds to
w h i c h Widmerpool      seemed        by nature
committed. It was partly for this reason that I
said: “Do you remember the time when you
saw Le Bas arrested?”
    “An appalling thing to happen,” said
Widmerpool. “I left soon after the incident. Was
it ever cleared up how the mistake arose?”
    “Stringham rang up the police and told
them that Le Bas was the man they wanted to
arrest,”
    “What do you mean?”
    “The criminal they were after looked rather
like Le Bas. We had seen a picture of him
outside the police-station.”
    “But why —”
    “As a hoax.”
    “Stringham?”
    “On the telephone – he said he was Le Bas
himself.”
    “I never heard anything like it,” said
Widmerpool. “What an extraordinary thing to
have done.”
    He sounded so furious that I felt that some
sort of apology was called for – in retrospect
the episode certainly seemed less patently a
matter for laughter, now that one was older and
had left school – and I said: “Well, Le Bas was
rather an ass.”
    “I certainly did not approve of Le Bas, or of
his methods of running a house,” said
Widmerpool: and I remembered that Le Bas
had particularly disliked him. “But to do a thing
like that to his own housemaster … And the risk
he ran. He might have been expelled. Were you
concerned in this too, Jenkins?”
    Widmerpool spoke so sternly that for a
moment I thought he intended to sit down,
there and then, and, in a belated effort to have
justice done, report the whole matter in writing
to Le Bas or the headmaster. I explained that
personally I had had no share in the hoax,
beyond having been out walking with
Stringham at the time. Widmerpool said, with
what I thought to be extraordinary fierceness:
“ O f course Stringham was thoroughly
undisciplined. It came from having too much
money.”
    “I never noticed much money lying about.”
    “Stringham may not have been given an
abnormal amount himself,” said Widmerpool,
irritably, “but his family are immensely
wealthy. Glimber is a huge place. My mother
and I went over it once on visiting day.”
     “But he is not coming in to Glimber.”
     I felt glad that I had been supplied by
Templer with this piece of information.
     “Of course he isn’t,’’ said Widmerpool, as if
my reply had been little short of insulting. “But
there are all his mother’s South African gold
holdings. That divorce of hers was a very
unfortunate affair for someone so well known.”
     I should have liked to hear more of this last
matter, but, Stringham being a friend of mine, I
fe lt that it would be beneath my dignity to
discuss his family affairs with someone who,
like Widmerpool, knew of them only through
hearsay. Later in life, I learnt that many things
one may require have to be weighed against
one’s dignity, which can be an insuperable
barrier against advancement in almost any
direction. However, in those days, choice
between dignity and unsatisfied curiosity, was
less clear to me as a cruel decision that had to
be made.
    “And that thin, rather good-looking boy,”
Widmerpool continued, “who used to be about a
lot with you and Stringham?”
    “Peter Templer.”
    “Was he in the Le Bas affair too?”
    “He was out for a walk with us on the same
afternoon.”
    “He did not have too good a reputation, did
he?”
    “Not too good.”
    “That was my            impression,” said
Widmerpool. “That he was not a good influence
in the house.”
    “You and he were mixed up in the Akworth
row, weren’t you?” I asked, not from malice, or
with a view to keeping him in order on the
subject of my friends, so much as for the reason
t hat I was inquisitive to know more of that
affair:    and,    considering the way that
Widmerpool had been talking, I felt no
particular delicacy about making the enquiry.
    Widmerpool went brick-red. He said: “I
would rather not speak of that, if you don’t
mind.”
    “Don’t let’s then.”
    “I suppose Templer got sacked in the end?”
Widmerpool went on: no doubt conscious that
h e might have sounded over-emphatic, and
evidently trying to bring some jocularity into
his tone.
    “More or less asked to leave.”
    “How badly used he really to behave?”
    He moistened his lips, though scarcely
perceptibly. I thought his mixture of
secretiveness and curiosity quite intolerable.
    “He had a woman before he left.”
    If Widmerpool had been upset by the news
that Stringham had played the Braddock alias
Thorne trick on Le Bas, and more personally
embarrassed by reference to the Akworth
scandal, this piece of information, regarding
Templer’s crowning exploit, threw him almost
entirely off his balance. He made a strange
sound, half-way between a low laugh and a
clearing of the throat, simultaneously
swallowing hard. He also went, if possible,
redder than ever. Took off his spectacles and
began to polish them, as he usually did when his
nerves were on edge. I did not feel entirely at
ease with the subject myself. To help out the
situation, I added: “I have just been staying
with the Templers as a matter of fact.”
    Widmerpool clearly welcomed this shift of
interest in our conversation, enquiring almost
eagerly about the Templers’ house, and the
manner in which they lived. We talked about
the Templers for a time, and I found to my
surprise      that   Widmerpool knew Sunny
Farebrother by name, though they had never
met. He said: “A very sharp fellow, they tell
me.”
    “I liked him.”
    “Naturally you did,” said Widmerpool. “He
can make himself very agreeable.”
    I found Widmerpool’s remarks in this vein
so tiresome that I was almost inclined to try
and shock him further by describing in detail
the various incidents that had taken place while
I was staying at the Templers’. In the end I
decided that those happenings needed too
much       explanation before they could be
appreciated, anyway by Widmerpool, that
there was nothing to be gained by trying to
impress him, or attempting to modify his point
of view. I told him that Peter was going straight
into business, without spending any time at the
university. Rather unexpectedly, Widmerpool
approved this decision, almost in Sunny
Farebrother’s own phrase.
    “Much better get down to work right away,”
he said. “There was not much money when my
father died, so 1 talked things over with my
mother – she has a wonderful grasp of business
matters – and we decided we would do the
same thing, and cut out Oxford or Cambridge.”
    By using the first person plural, he made
the words sound as if there had been some
question of his mother going up to the
university with him. He said: “This effort to
polish up my French is merely in the nature of
a holiday.”
    “A holiday from what?”
    “I am articled to a firm of solicitors.”
    “Oh, yes.”
    “I do not necessarily propose to remain a
solicitor all my life,” said Widmerpool. “I look to
wider horizons.”
    “What sort?”
    “Business, Politics.”
    This all seemed to me such rubbish that I
changed the subject, asking where he lived. He
replied, rather stiffly, that his mother had a flat
in Victoria. It was convenient, he said; but
without explaining the advantages. I enquired
what life was like in London.
    “That depends what you do,” said
Widmerpool, guardedly.
    “So I suppose.”
    “What profession are you going to follow?”
    “I don’t know.”
    It seemed almost impossible to make any
remark without in one manner or another
disturbing Widmerpool’s equanimity. He was
almost as shocked at hearing that I had no
ready-made plans for a career as he had been
scandalised a few minutes earlier at the
information      regarding       the   precocious
dissipation of Templer’s life.
    “But surely you have some bent?” he said.
“An ambition to do well at something?”
    This ideal conception – that one should have
an aim in life – had, indeed, only too often
occurred to me as an unsolved problem; but I
was still far from deciding what form my
endeavours should ultimately take. Being at
that moment unprepared for an a priori
discussion as to what the future should hold, I
made several rather lame remarks to the effect
that I wanted one day “to write:” an assertion
that had not even the merit of being true, as it
was an idea that had scarcely crossed my mind
until that moment.
    “To write?” said Widmerpool. “But that is
hardly a profession. Unless you mean you want
to be a journalist – like Lundquist.”
    “I suppose I might do that.”
    “It is precarious,” said Widmerpool. “And –
although we laugh, of course, at Örn for saying
so, right out – there is certainly not much social
position attached: unless, for example, you
become editor of The Times, or something of
that sort. I should think it over very carefully
before you commit yourself.”
    “I am not absolutely determined to become
a journalist.”
    “You are wise. What are your other
interests?”
    Feeling that the conversation had taken a
turn that delivered me over to a kind of cross-
examination, I admitted that I liked reading.
    “You can’t earn your living by reading,” said
Widmerpool, severely.
    “I never said you could.”
    “It doesn’t do to read too much,”
Widmerpool said. “You get to look at life with a
fa ls e perspective. By all means have some
familiarity with the standard authors. I should
never raise any objection to that. But it is no
good clogging your mind with a lot of trash from
modern novels.”
    “That was what Le Bas used to say.”
    “And he was quite right. I disagreed in
many ways with Le Bas. In that one, I see eye
to eye with him.”
    There was not much for me to say in reply.
I had a novel – If Winter Comes, which I had
now nearly finished – under my arm, and it was
impossible to deny that I had been reading this
book. Widmerpool must have noticed this,
because he continued in a more kindly tone:
“You must meet my mother. She is one of those
r ar e middle-aged women who have retained
their youthful interest in matters of the mind.
If you like books – and you tell me you do –
you would thoroughly enjoy a chat with her
about them.”
    “That would be nice.”
    “I shall arrange it,” said Widmerpool. “Et
maintenant, il faut se coucher, parce-que je
compte de me reveiller de bonne heure le
matin.”
    In the course of subsequent conversations
between us he talked a good deal about his
mother. On the subject of his father he was
more reticent. Sometimes I had even the
impression that Widmerpool père had earned a
living in some manner of which his son – an
only child – preferred not to speak: though, one
evening, in a burst of confidence, he mentioned
that his paternal grandfather had been a Scotch
business man called Geddes, who had taken the
name of Widmerpool after marrying a wife of
that name, who was – so Widmerpool indicated
in his characteristic manner – of rather higher
standing than himself. There seemed to have
been some kind of financial crisis when
Widmerpool’s father had died, either on
account of debts, or because the family’s
income had been thereby much reduced. Life
with his mother appeared to be very quiet and
to consist of working all day and studying law
after dinner most nights; though Widmerpool
took care to explain to me that he deliberately
took part in a certain amount of what he called
“social life.” He said, with one of his rare smiles:
“Brains and hard work are of very little avail,
Jenkins, unless you know the right people.”
    I told him that I had an uncle who was fond
of saying the same thing; and I asked what
form his relaxations generally took.
    “I go to dances,” said Widmerpool; adding,
rather grandly: “in the Season, that is.”
    “Do you get a lot of invitations?” I asked,
divided between feeling rather impressed by
this attitude towards the subject in hand and, at
the same time, finding difficulty in believing
that he could be overwhelmed by persons
wishing to share his company.
    Widmerpool was evasive on this point, and
muttered something about invitations being
“just a question of getting on a list.” As he
seemed unwilling to amplify this statement, I
did not press him further, having myself a
somewhat indistinct comprehension of what he
meant: and appreciating that the relative
extent of his invitations, as for anyone, might
be, perhaps, a delicate matter.
    “I don’t get much time for games now,” he
said. “Though once in a way I make a point of
going down to Barnes, and driving a ball into a
net.”
    I was, for some reason, conscious of an odd
sense of relief that he should no longer consider
himself compelled to undergo those protracted
and gruelling trials of endurance against himself
for which he still remained chiefly notable in my
mind. Driving a golf ball into a net presented an
innocuous, immensely less tortured, picture to
the mind than that offered by those penitential
exertions with which I had formed the habit of
associating his hours of recreation. This
mitigated strain became even more apparent to
me later on, when we used to play tennis,
though his old enthusiasm was still quite strong
enough.
    Tennis at La Grenadière – or rather in the
grounds of a ruined nineteenth-century
mansion in Renaissance style situated about a
mile and a half away on the outskirts of the
town – was certainly of a kind to give small
opportunity for a parade of that feverish
keenness which had made the sight of
Widmerpool       playing games at school so
uncomfortable to watch: although, so far as
possible, he always insisted upon a high
standard of athletic formality being observed
whenever we played. The tennis court was,
however, the stage for him to reveal to me
quite another side of his character: an
unsuspected strength of personality and power
of negotiation. This was in connection with the
rupture of relations between Monsieur Örn and
Monsieur Lundquist, both of whom, as it turned
out, took their game with seriousness at least
equal to Widmerpool’s; in spite of the
comparatively unprofessional circumstances in
which these contests were held.
    The several hard tennis courts in this
garden, which had been taken over as a park by
the municipality, had never been properly kept
up since becoming public property; so that in
the course of time the soil had receded from the
metal      bars that formed the lines of
demarcation, leaving solid boundaries that
protruded so far above the ground that it was
easy to catch one’s foot in them when running
about the court. If the ball hit one of these
projecting strips of metal, it might become
wedged beneath, or fly off at an unexpected
angle; accordingly counting as a “let.” Both of
these types of “let” took place with fair
frequency, somewhat slowing up the cadence of
the game, and making it hard to play with the
concentration with which Widmerpool liked to
approach all forms of sport. In addition to this
local impediment to rapid play, neither Berthe
nor Suzette were very proficient at the game;
and they – with Paul-Marie and Jean-
Népomucène, also beginners – always had to be
worked into the fours.
     Being no great performer myself, I rather
enjoyed tennis played in these leisurely, at
times undoubtedly eccentric, conditions; but
Widmerpool was perpetually grumbling about
“ t h e game not being taken seriously,” a
complaint that was, from his point of view, fully
justified: although he was himself in no sense a
good player. If he could possibly manage to do
so, he would try to arrange a “men’s four,”
which usually resulted in one of us partnering a
Scandinavian; and it soon became clear that,
however much Monsieur Örn and Monsieur
Lundquist might be able to cloak their mutual
antipathy in the common intercourse of
everyday life, their hatred for each other on the
tennis court was a passion far less easily
curbed. As it happened, a “men’s four” was not
so simple for Widmerpool to contrive as might
be supposed, because Berthe and Suzette were
inclined to resent having to play in a four with
Paul-Marie and Jean-Népomucène – another
instance of excessive insistence on dignity
defeating its own ends, for in that manner the
girls would have gained practice which they
greatly needed – and also, a more potent
reason, because there were at best only four
tennis balls; one of which had a gash in its outer
covering which adversely affected the bounce.
These balls not uncommonly became mislaid in
the thickets of the garden; and, although Paul-
Marie and Jean-Népomucène were themselves
not above playing a single with only one ball
(provided, this were not the damaged one), the
rest of the party looked upon a couple of sound
balls as a minimum; and preferred, if possible,
to have the use of all av ailable. Sometimes
either Berthe or Suzette was “souffrante,” and
wanted to sit out for a set or two. This rarely
occurred to both of them on the same day, so
that, as it happened, competition between
Monsieur Örn and Monsieur Lundquist,
although each occasionally played against the
other partnering one of the girls, took on its
most violent aspect when both were engaged in
a “men’s four:” a “single” between them being,
naturally, unthinkable.
    If a “single” had ever taken place, it would
undoubtedly have been won by Monsieur Örn,
a better player than Monsieur Lundquist, taller
and quicker in movement. There was, however,
another element that entered into these games,
especially when four were playing. This was
knowledge of the peculiarities of the court, and
their uses in winning a set, of which Monsieur
Lundquist had a far keener grasp than
Monsieur Örn. Monsieur Lundquist was also
accustomed to practise a trick which had for
some reason the effect of making Monsieur Örn
abandon his normal state of vague, silent
acceptance of the hardships of life and become
decidedly irritable. This stratagem was for
Monsieur Lundquist suddenly to change the
style of his service, from a fairly brisk delivery
that sent the grit flying about the court, to a
gentle lob that only just cleared the net: a
stroke which, quite unaccountably, always took
Monsieur Örn by surprise, invariably causing
him to lose the point.
    Monsieur Lundquist never employed this
device more than once in the course of an
afternoon: often not at all. However, on one
unusually hot day, after I had been at La
Grenadière for several weeks, he did it twice in
the same set, catching out Monsieur Örn on
both occasions. It so happened that earlier in
the same afternoon a ball lodged itself four or
five times under the back line, a particularly
annoying circumstance for the player – in
every case Monsieur Örn – who certainly
would otherwise have won the point. After the
last of these “lets,” Monsieur Lundquist served
his second lob – an unheard-of thing – catching
Monsieur Örn unawares for the second time,
with – so far as I was concerned – entirely
unexpected effect on the Norwegian’s temper.
    The actual word, or words, employed by
Monsieur Örn never came publicly to light,
even after the whole matter had been closed:
nor was it ever established whether the epithet,
or designation, had been expressed in Swedish,
Norwegian, or in some opprobrious term, or
phrase, common to both languages. Whatever
was said, Monsieur Örn spoke quietly, with
c los e d lips, almost muttering to himself;
although in a manner apparently audible to
Monsieur Lundquist, who lost all at once his
look of enormous self-satisfaction, went red in
the face, and walked quickly round to the other
side of the net. Widmerpool, his partner,
shouted: “M a is qu’-est-ce que vous faites,
Monsieur Lundquist? J’en ai ici deux balles.
C’est assez?”
    Monsieur Lundquist took no notice of him.
It was at least clear to me that, whatever else
he might want, he had not crossed the court in
search of tennis balls. He went straight up to
Monsieur Örn and – I suppose – demanded an
apology. “I thought those northern races did
not get hysterical,” Widmerpool said to me
afterwards, when we were discussing the
distressing scene that followed; which ended
with Monsieur Lundquist marching away from
the rest of us, jumping on his bicycle, and riding
at breakneck speed over the dusty pot-holes
that punctuated the drive’s steep descent. At
one moment, as he rounded the corner, I felt
sure that he was going to come off; but he
recov ered his balance, and passing rapidly
through the open gates of wrought iron that led
to the road, he disappeared from sight. I agreed
with Widmerpool that if he had supposed that
hysteria formed no part of the Scandinavian
temperament, he had – to use a favourite
phrase of his own – based his opinion on
insufficient data.
    This scene, though in itself a violent one, did
not take long to play out. Before its close,
Berthe and Suzette had both risen from the
seat upon which they had been resting, and
done their best to join in. They were only
partially     successful in this, though they
contrived to add appreciably to the hubbub.
Finally, we were all left standing in the centre of
the court beside Monsieur Örn, who had limited
himself throughout the commotion almost
entirely to monosyllables. He now began to
speak in a deep, strident voice, which after a
minute or two showed signs of shaking with
emotion. At first Widmerpool and I were unable
to grasp the root of the trouble, partly because
Monsieur Lundquist’s lobbing technique was
sufficiently common for none of the rest of us
specially to have noticed it that afternoon:
partly because at that age I was not yet old
enough to be aware of the immense rage that
can be secreted in the human heart by
cumulative minor irritation. However, the
subject of the dispute began to reveal itself in
due course after Monsieur Lundquist had left
t h e gardens. In fact Monsieur Örn at length
demonstrated the origin of his annoyance by
himself tapping a ball – the gashed one – lightly
over the net in Monsieur Lundquist’s manner,
where it fell flat, like a stone, on the reddish
dust. “Jamais,” said Monsieur Örn, now very
quietly, after performing this action several
times. “Jamais – jamais.” Whether his words
were intended to convey that no one should
ever practice tricks of that sort, or whether he
was expressing an intention never again to play
tennis with Monsieur Lundquist was not
certain.
     The result of all this was a breach between
Monsieur Örn and Monsieur Lundquist which
there seemed no possibility of closing. By the
time we reached the house, I had satisfactorily
reconstructed the situation in my own mind;
and I imagined – as it turned out, quite
incorrectly – that I had grasped its intricacies
more thoroughly than Widmerpool. It is
doubtful whether the two girls ever understood
the true source of the disturbance, though
neither of them was backward in explaining
what had gone wrong, and how it should be put
right. There is no knowing what sort of an
account Madame Leroy was given of the
trouble, because she heard the first version
from Berthe and Suzette as soon as we arrived
back at La Grenadière .
    Whatever was said was, in any case,
sufficient to prepare her for a trying time at
dinner     that evening, during which meal
Monsieur Örn and Monsieur Lundquist spoke
no word to each other and very little to anyone
else: projecting between them across the table
a cloud of hatred that seemed to embarrass
even Madame Leroy, not easily disconcerted in
her own house. Her husband, it is true, did not
show any concern whatever, or, indeed,
awareness that something might be amiss; and
Paul-Marie and Jean-Népomucène, at first
greatly delighted by the grown-up quarrel,
soon forgot the Scandinavians in some
elaborate and secret diversion of their own.
Berthe, Suzette, and Madame Dubuisson were
in a state of acute excitement, shooting each
other glances intended to be full of meaning;
while they conversed in a kind of hissing
undertone. Widmerpool, also, was plainly
agitated. The only person whole-heartedly
amused, and pleased, by what had happened
was Monsieur Dubuisson, who talked more
t h a n was his custom throughout the meal,
amplifying a little the exposé he had given on
the previous day of one of his favourite
subjects, the development of water-power in
Morocco. So far as I was concerned myself,
these circumstances made me feel very uneasy,
and I could see no way for matters to right
themselves; nor for normal life to be carried on,
except      by    the hand-to-mouth method
symbolised by passing to Monsieur Örn or
Monsieur Lundquist whatever food or drink
each was likely to need, for which neither would
ask the other. This state of affairs lasted
throughout the following day, and the next;
until there seemed no solution to the problem
of how to restore the relationship between
Monsieur Örn and Monsieur Lundquist to its
old footing, imperfect as this may have been.
    To my great surprise, Monsieur Dubuisson
began to discuss this situation with me one
evening, when we found ourselves alone
together in the garden. It had been another
bakingly hot day, and the white dust lay thick
on the leaves of the shrubs, and over the
battered seat upon which I was sitting. I was
reading Bel-Ami, discovered among the books –
on the whole not a very exciting collection –
kept in the glass cabinet in the hall. Monsieur
Dubuisson had been walking up and down one
of the paths, studying a newspaper. Now he
came across the withered grass, and sat down
beside me, at the same time taking from the
pocket of his black alpaca coat his pipe, of which
– like Peter Templer – he was, for some
reason, immensely proud. As usual he cleared
his throat several times before speaking, and
then, leaning backwards, spat sideways over
the seat. In his slow, disapproving voice he said:
“I think it would be a – a little absurd if I talked
French to you in view of our – our relative
mastery of each other’s tongue. Do you agree,
Jenkins, yes?”
    “Absolutely.”
    One had to admit that he spoke English
remarkably well, in spite of the hesitations
made necessary by the subtlety of his
processes of thought. There could be no doubt
that every sentence was intended to knock you
down by its penetrative brilliance. Smiling
quietly to himself, as if at some essentially witty
conception that he was inwardly playing with,
and withheld only because its discernment was
not for everybody, he began slowly to fill his
pipe with tobacco – again like Peter’s – that
smelt peculiarly abominable.
    “There seems to be a regular falling-out
between our good friends from the north,” he
said.
    I agreed.
    “You and I,” said Monsieur Dubuisson,
“belong to nations who have solved their
different problems in different ways.”
     I admitted that this assertion was
undeniable.
     “Our countries have even, as you would say,
agreed to differ. You lean on tradition: we on
logic.”
     I was not then aware how many times I was
to be informed of this contrast in national
character on future occasions by Frenchmen
whose paths I might happen to cross; and again
I concurred.
     “As I understand the affair,” went on
Monsieur Dubuisson, “as I understand the
circumstances of the matter, it would be
difficult to achieve something in the nature of a
reconciliation.”
     “Very difficult, I —”
     “It would be difficult, because it would be
hard to determine whether an appeal should be
made, on the one hand, to your congenital
leaning towards tradition: or, on the other, to
our characteristic preference for logic. Do you
agree? The way may even lie near some
Scandinavian fusion of these two ideas. You
read Strindberg?”
    “I have heard of him.”
    “I think our Swedish friend, Lundquist, is
quite pleased with himself,” said Monsieur
Dubuisson, allowing me no opportunity to
interrupt his train of thought: at the same time
nodding and smiling, as a speaker personally
familiar with the exquisite sensations that being
pleased with oneself could impart to the whole
being. “Örn, on the other hand, always seems to
have the blues. During the war I knew some of
your countrymen of that type. Always down at
the mouth.”
    “Did you see a lot of the British Army?”
    “Towards the end, quite a lot. It was
obvious, speaking English as I do. For three
months I was second-in-command to a
battalion. I was wounded twice and have four
citations.”
    I asked if he had ever come across my
father in Paris; but, although Monsieur
Dubuisson was unwilling to admit that they had
never met – and assured me that he had heard
Commandant Leroy speak of my father in the
highest terms – it seemed probable that the
two of them had never run across one another.
On the other hand, Monsieur Dubuisson
remarked: “Much of my work was done with
Captain Farebrother, whom you have perhaps
met in England. He was called Sunny
Farebrother by his comrades in the army.”
    “But how astonishing – I have met him.”
    As a matter of fact, I had thought of
Farebrother almost as soon as Monsieur
Dubuisson had mentioned his own war record,
because it had immediately occurred to me how
much Jimmy Stripling would have loathed
Monsieur Dubuisson, with his wounds and
citations. Besides, Monsieur Dubuisson’s
treatment of the circumstances of his war
career made Farebrother’s references to his
own military past seem infinitely fastidious.
    “But why should you think it astonishing?”
asked Monsieur Dubuisson, with one of his
withering smiles, which spread over the whole
of his face, crinkling the features into the shape
of a formal mask of comedy, crowned with
greyish-mauve locks. “Captain Farebrother is a
man I know to go about a great deal in society.
What could be more natural than that you
should have met him?”
    I did not know in those days that it was
impossible to convince egoists of Monsieur
Dubuisson’s calibre that everyone does not look
on the world as if it were arranged with them –
in this case Monsieur Dubuisson – at its centre;
and, not realising that, in his eyes, the only
possible justification for my turning up at La
Grenadière would be the fact that I had once
met someone already known to him, I tried to
explain that         this acquaintanceship with
Farebrother seemed to me an extraordinary
coincidence. In addition to this, if I had been old
enough to have experienced something of the
world of conferences and semi-political affairs,
in effect a comparatively small one, it would
have seemed less unexpected that their
meeting had taken place.
    “He was a good fellow,” said Monsieur
Dubuisson. “There was, as a matter of fact, a
small question in which Captain Farebrother
had shown himself interested, and of which I
later heard nothing. Perhaps you know his
address?”
    “I am afraid not.”
    “It is of no consequence,” said Monsieur
Dubuisson. “I can easily trace him.”
    All the same he cleared his throat again,
rather crossly. I felt that all this talk about the
war, by reviving old memories, had put him out
of his stride. He pulled at his pipe for a time,
and then returned to the subject of Monsieur
Örn and Monsieur Lundquist.
    “Now you were present when this falling-
out took place,” he said. “Can you recite to me
the pertinent facts?”
    I told him how matters had looked to me as
a witness of them. He listened carefully to the
story, which sounded – I had to admit to myself
– fairly silly when told in cold blood. When I
came to the end he knocked out his pipe against
the leg of the seat, and, turning towards me,
said quite tolerantly: “Now look here, Jenkins,
you know you and I cannot believe eyewash of
that sort. Grown-up men do not quarrel about
such things.”
    “What were they quarrelling about, then?”
    ‘Monsieur Dubuisson gave his slow,
sceptical smile. He shook his head several
times.
    “You are no longer a child, Jenkins,” he said.
“I know that in England such matters are not –
not stressed. But you have no doubt noticed at
La Grenadière the presence of two charming
young ladies. You have?”
    I conceded this.
    “Very good,” said Monsieur Dubuisson.
“Very good.”
    He rose from the seat, and stood looking
down at me, holding his hands behind his back..
I felt rather embarrassed, thinking that he had
perhaps guessed my own feelings for Suzette.
    “Then what is there to be done about it?” I
asked, to break the silence.
    “Ah, mon vieux,” said Monsieur Dubuisson.
“Well may you ask what is to be done about it.
To me – troubled as I am with a mind that
leaps to political parallels – the affair seems to
me as the problems of Europe in miniature.
Two young girls – two gentlemen. Which
gentleman is to have which young girl? Your
Government wishes mine to devalue the franc.
We say the solution lies in your own policy of
export.”
    He shrugged his shoulders.
    “I shrug my shoulders,” he said, “like a
Frenchman on the London stage.”
    I was entirely at a loss to know how to reply
to his presentation of this political and
international allegory in relation to the matter
in hand: and I found myself unable to grasp the
implications of the parallel he drew with
sufficient assurance to enable me to express
either agreement or disagreement. However,
Monsieur Dubuisson, as usual, appeared to
expect no reply. He said: “I appreciate, Jenkins,
that you have come here to study. At the same
time you may need something – what shall I
say? – something more stimulating than the
conversation which your somewhat limited
fluency in the French language at present
allows you to enjoy. Do not hesitate to talk with
me when we are alone together on any subject
that may happen to interest you.”
     He smiled once again; and, while I thanked
him, added: “I am conversant with most
subjects.”
     As he strolled back across the lawn towards
the house, he stowed away his pipe, which he
seemed to use as a kind of emblem of common
sense, in the pocket of his black alpaca jacket,
which he wore over fawn tussore trousers.
     I remained on the seat, thinking over his
remarks, which required some classification
before judgment could be passed on them. I
could not accept his theory that jealousy about
the girls, at least jealousy in any
straightforward form, was at the bottom of the
quarrel; because, in so much as the
Scandinavians were to be thought of in
connection with Berthe and Suzette, each had
paired off – if such an expression could be used
of so amorphous a relationship – with a
different girl: and everyone seemed perfectly
happy with this arrangement. Berthe, as I have
said, undoubtedly possessed a slight weakness
f o r Monsieur Örn, which he recognised by
markedly chivalrous behaviour towards her,
when any such questions arose as the pumping-
up of tyres of her bicycle, or carrying parcels
back from the village when she did the
shopping. Like Berthe, Monsieur Örn, too, was
engaged; and he had, indeed, once handed
round a small, somewhat faded, snapshot of
himself sitting in ski-ing costume in the snow
with his fiancée, who came from Trondhjem.
Monsieur Lundquist, on the other hand,
although interest in himself allowed him to
show no more than moderate preference
towards girls, or anyone else, seemed distinctly
inclined towards Suzette. In so much as this
allocation could be regarded as in any way part
of a system, it also appeared to be absolutely
satisfactory to everyone concerned. Indeed, the
only person I knew of who might be said to
have suffered from emotions that fell within the
range of those suggested by Monsieur
Dubuisson was myself; because, although the
episode of the tennis court represented the
more dramatic side of life at La Grenadière ,
the image of Suzette played in fact a far more
preponderant part in my thoughts than the
affairs    of    the    Scandinavians, however
unrestrained their behaviour.
    I sometimes tried to sort out these feelings
that had developed towards Suzette, which had
certainly aroused from time to time a sensation
of annoyance that Monsieur Lundquist should
be talking animatedly to her, or helping her
down the spiral staircase of some medieval
building that we might be visiting. These were,
I was aware, responses to be compared with
those aroused by Jean Templer, with whom, as
I have said, I now thought of myself as being
“in love;” and I was somewhat put out to find
that recurrent projections in the mind of the
images of either of them, Jean or Suzette, did
not in the least exclude that of the other. That
was when I began to suspect that being in love
might be a complicated affair.
    Naturally         these reflections   linked
themselves with the general question of “girls,”
discusse d so often in my presence by
Stringham and Templer. The curious thing was
that, although quite aware that a sentiment of
attraction towards Suzette was merely part of
an instinct that had occasioned Peter’s
“unfortunate incident” – towards which I was
conscious of no sense of disapproval – my
absorption in the emotional disturbance
produced by Jean and Suzette seemed hardly
at all connected with the taking of what had
been, even in Templer’s case, a fairly violent
decision. I did not view his conduct on that
London afternoon either as a contrast to my
own inability to tackle the problem posed by
these girls; nor even, for that matter, as an
extension – or cruder and more aggravated
version – of the same motive. My own position
in the matter seemed, even to myself, to be
misty: half-pleasant, half-melancholy. I was,
however, struck by the reflection that
undoubted inconvenience was threatened if this
apparently recurrent malady of the heart was
to repeat itself throughout life, with the almost
dizzy reiteration that had now begun to seem
unavoidable.
    Suzette herself remained, so far as I was
concerned, almost as enigmatic as Jean.
Sometimes I thought she liked me to sit beside
h e r at meals, or play as her partner at the
strange games of auction bridge that sometimes
took place in the evening, bearing the same
relation to ordinary card playing that our tennis
bore to ordinary tennis; and once there seemed
a chance that her preference was shown even a
little more definitely. This happened one
Monday afternoon, when Bum was having his
bath on the table in the garden, and, Madame
Leroy suffering from migraine, Suzette was
conducting this ceremony.
     She had asked me to hold the dog, while he
was being soaped all over. Bum usually enjoyed
his bath, standing quietly with legs apart, until
it was time for him to be dried with a rough
towel; then he would run off, wagging his tail.
That day, however, he stood on the table
peacefully until the soap-suds reached half-way
down his back, when, at that point, he suddenly
escaped from my hands, and jumped on to the
ground. Shaking himself excitedly, he set off
across the garden, having decided, evidently,
that he had had enough of this bath. At that
moment Charley appeared from the front door.
I have mentioned that Charley was never
bathed, and resented this attention paid to
Bum’s handsome coat. Charley began to growl,
and the two dogs ran round the paths, snarling,
though fairly amicably, at each other, chased by
Suzette and myself. At last Charley
disappeared into the bushes, and we headed
Bum into the summer-house. As we came in
there after him, he jumped on to the seat, and
out of the window. Suzette sat down, rather
breathless, shaking her head to show that she
proposed to pursue him no farther. I sat down
beside her, and found my hand resting on hers.
She continued to laugh, and did not remove her
fingers from under mine. Whether or not this
fortuitous preliminary might have developed
along more positive lines is hard to say. I had
no plan of campaign in mind, though I knew this
to be a moment that would commit us one way
or the other. Suzette probably – indeed,
certainly – knew far better what it was all
about. However, there was no time for the
situation to develop because, at that moment,
Widmerpool appeared in the summer-house;
just as he had done on the day of my arrival.
    “Mais qu’est-ce que c’est que ce bruit
effroyable?” he said. “On doit penser que tout
le monde a devenu fou.”
    “Tout le monde est fou,” Suzette said.
“Naturellement, tout le monde est fou,”
    Our hands had separated as Widmerpool
came through the door. He sat down between
us and began to talk of Les Miserables, which
he had borrowed from Monsieur Örn. Suzette
resumed       her well-behaved, well-informed
exterior, with which I was by now so familiar,
and for a time she discoursed, almost as
boringly as Widmerpool himself, on the subject
of Victor Hugo. The occasion was past; but in
the days that followed I thought often about
that moment in the summer-house when our
hands had been together, regretting that I had
not managed to turn that chance to some
account.
    The word just spoken by Monsieur
Dubuisson while sitting by me on the seat had,
therefore, a peculiarly powerful effect in
confirming, not only the overwhelming impact
of this new, perhaps rather alarming,
ascendancy of the emotions; but also my
consciousness of the respect which Monsieur
Dubuisson obviously paid to these forces, as
coming first when any human relationship was
t o be analysed. I did not feel that I could
discuss such things with Widmerpool; and it
never occurred to me that he himself might feel
equally attracted, towards Berthe or Suzette. I
still saw him only in the crude, and inadequate,
terms with which I had accepted him at school.
     If I had decided to discuss Suzette with
Widmerpool, I should have had an opportunity
that evening, because he mentioned in his more
formal manner, after dinner, that he would like
to have a word with me alone, before I went off
to bed. He showed every sign of being
particularly pleased about something, when he
spoke to me, and he was rubbing together his
“gritty little knuckles,” as Peter Templer had
called them. Except at meals, I had seen
nothing of him all day. I imagined that he had
been working in his bedroom, where he would
sometimes disappear for hours on end, while he
translated the French classics, or otherwise
studied the language.
    Everyone, except Commandant Leroy, went
off to their rooms early that night; probably
because the atmosphere of disquiet spread by
M ons ie u r Örn and Monsieur Lundquist,
although perhaps a shade less crushing than on
the previous day, was still discouraging to
general conversation. After the rest of the
household had gone upstairs, Widmerpool,
pursing his lips and blowing out his cheeks, kept
on looking in the commandant’s direction,
evidently longing to get rid of him; but the old
man sat on, turning over the tattered pages of a
long out-of-date copy of L’Illustration, and
speaking, disjointedly, of the circumstances in
which he had been gassed. I liked Commandant
Leroy. The fact that he was bullied by his wife
had not prevented him from enjoying a life of
his own; and, within the scope of his world of
patent medicines and pottering about the
garden, he had evolved a philosophy of
detachment that made his presence restful
rather than the reverse. Widmerpool despised
him, however, chiefly, so far as I could gather,
on the grounds that the commandant had failed
to reach a higher rank in the army. Madame
Leroy, on the other hand, was respected by
Widmerpool. “She has many of the good
qualities of my own mother,” he used to say;
and I think he was even a trifle afraid of her.
    Commandant         Leroy sat describing in
scrupulous detail how his unit had been ordered
to move into the support line along a network of
roads that were being shelled, according to his
account, owing to some error committed by the
directing staff. He had gone forward to inspect
the ground himself, and so on, and so forth. The
story came to an end at last, when he found
himself in the hands of the army doctors, of
w h o m he spoke with great detestation.
Widmerpool stood up. There was another long
delay while Bum was let out of the room into
t h e garden: and, after Bum’s return,
Commandant Leroy shook hands with both of
us, and shuffled off to bed. Widmerpool shut the
door after him, and sat down in the
commandant’s chair.
    “I have settled the matter between Örn and
Lundquist,” he said.
    “What on earth do you mean?”
    Widmerpool made that gobbling sound, not
unlike an engine getting up steam, which meant
that he was excited, or put out, about
something: in this case unusually satisfied. He
said: “I have had conversations with each of
them – separately – and I think I can
confidently predict that I am not far from
persuading them to make things up.”
    “What?”
    “In fact I have reason to suppose that
within, say, twenty-four hours I shall have
achieved that object.”
    “Did you tell them not to be such bloody
fools?”
    This was quite the wrong comment to have
made. Widmerpool, who had previously shown
signs of being in a far more complacent mood
than was usual in his conversations with me,
immediately altered his expression, and,
indeed, his whole manner. He said: “Jenkins, do
you mind home truths?”
     “I don’t think so.”
     “First,” said Widmerpool, “you are a great
deal too fond of criticising other people:
secondly, when a man’s self-esteem has been
injured he is to be commiserated with – not
blamed. You will find it a help in life to
remember those two points.”
     “But they have both of them been behaving
in the most pompous way imaginable, making
life impossible for everyone else. I quite see
that Lundquist should not have sent sneaks
over the net like that, but Örn ought to be used
t o them by now. Anyway, if Örn did rap out
something a bit stiff, he could easily have said
he was sorry. What do you think the word
meant?”
     “I have no idea what the word meant,” said
Widmerpool, “nor am I in the least interested
to learn. I agree with you that Lundquist’s play
from a certain aspect – I repeat from a certain
aspect – might be said to leave something to be
desired; that is to say from the purest, and, to
my         mind,       somewhat       high-flown,
sportsmanship. On the other hand there was no
question of cheating.”
    “It is a pretty feeble way of winning a
service.”
    “Games,” said Widmerpool, “are played to
be won, whatever people may say and write to
the contrary. Lundquist has never found that
service to fail. Can he, therefore, be blamed for
using it?”
    He folded his arms and stared fixedly past
me, as if he were looking out into the night in
search of further dialectical ammunition, if I
were to remain unconvinced by his argument.
    “But you wouldn’t use that service
yourself?”
    “Everyone has his own standards of
conduct,” said Widimerpool. “I trust mine are
no lower than other people’s.”
    “Anyhow,” I said, as I was getting tired of
the subject, “what did you do to bring them
together?”
    “First of all I went to Lundquist,” said
Widmerpool, relaxing a little the stringency of
his manner; “I explained to him that we all
understood that Örn should not have spoken as
he did.”
   “But we don’t know what Örn said.”
   Widmerpool made a nervous movement
with his hands to show his irritation; He
seemed half-inclined to break off his narrative,
but changed his mind, and went on: “I told him
that we all knew Örn was a bit of a rough
diamond, as Lundquist himself understood, as
much – or even more – than the rest of us. It
was therefore no good expecting anything very
courtly from Örn in the way of behaviour,”
   “How did Lundquist take that?”
   “He fully agreed. But he emphasised that
such defects, attributed by him to inherent
weaknesses in the Norwegian system of
education, did not alter the fact that his,
Lundquist’s, honour had been insulted.”
   Widmerpool stopped speaking at this point,
and looked at me rather threateningly, as if he
was prepared for such a statement on
Lundquist’s part to arouse comment. As I
remained silent, he continued: “That argument
was hard to answer. I asked him, accordingly, if
I had his permission to speak to Örn on the
same subject.”
    “What did he say to that?”
    “He bowed.”
    “It all sounds very formal.”
    “ I t w a s very formal,” said Widmerpool.
“Why should it have been otherwise?”
    Not knowing the answer, I did not take up
this challenge; thinking that perhaps he was
right.
    “I went straight to Örn,” said Widmerpool,
“and told him that we all understood his most
justifiable annoyance at Lundquist’s service;
but that he, Örn, must realise, as the rest of us
did, that Lundquist is a proud man. No one
could be in a better position to appreciate that
fact than Örn himself, I said. I pointed out that
it could not fail to be painful to Lundquist’s
amour-propre to lose so frequently – even
though he were losing to a better tennis-
player.”
    “Did all this go on in French?”
    Widmerpool took no notice of this question;
which, both Scandinavians knowing some
English, seemed to me of interest. “Örn was
more obstinate than Lundquist,” said
Widmerpool. “Örn kept on repeating that, if
Lundquist wished to play pat-ball with the girls
– or little boys, he added – there was plenty of
opportunity for him to do so. He, Örn, liked to
play with men – hommes – he shouted the
word rather loud. He said that, in his own eyes,
hommes might be stretched to include Paul-
Marie and Jean- Népomucène, but did not
include Lundquist.”
    Widmerpool paused.
    “And he stuck to that?” I asked.
    Widmerpool shook his head slowly from side
to side, allowing his lips to form a faint smile. He
said: “Örn took a lot of persuading.”
    “Then he agreed?”
    “He agreed that I should come again to-
morrow to renew the discussion.”
    “You are certainly taking a lot of trouble
about them.”
    “These things are worth trouble,” said
Widmerpool. “You may learn that in time,
Jenkins.”
     I followed him up the stairs, more than a
little impressed. There was something about
the obstinacy with which he pursued his aims
that could not be disregarded, or merely
ridiculed. Even then I did not recognise the
quest for power.
     The consequence of Widmerpool’s efforts
was to be seen a couple of nights later, when
Monsieur Örn and Monsieur Lundquist sat
together, after dinner, at one of the tables in
the garden, finishing off between them a bottle
of Cognac: after giving a glass to Madame
Leroy, Madame Dubuisson, and myself, and
t w o glasses to Monsieur Dubuisson: everyone
else, for one reason or another, refusing the
offer. Long after I was in bed and asleep that
night, I was woken by the sound of the
Scandinavians stumbling up to their room, now
apparently on the best of terms. It had been a
triumph of diplomacy on Widmerpool’s part.
T h e enterprise he had shown in the matter
displayed a side of his character the existence
of which I had never suspected. I had to admit
to myself that, in bringing Monsieur Örn and
Monsieur Lundquist together again, he had
achieved a feat that I should never have
ventured even to attempt.
    The sense of tension that had prevailed
during the period of the row was now replaced
by one of perhaps rather strained amiability, in
which all but Monsieur Dubuisson joined.
Monsieur Dubuisson accepted the brandy as
the outward and visible sign of reconciliation,
but he showed no vestige of surprise at the
changed situation, certainly none of satisfaction.
Madame Leroy was, of course, delighted;
though I do not think that she ever had any
idea of how concord had once more been
br ought about: attributing it entirely to a
change of heart on the part of the couple
concerned. For the rest of us, there could be no
doubt of the improvement. The latter part of
my stay at La Grenadière was passed, on the
whole, in an atmosphere of good will on all
sides: with the exception of a comparatively
m inor incident which involved Widmerpool
only. There was undoubtedly a suggestion of
nervous relaxation when Monsieur Lundquist
moved, a few days later, to Bonn, where he was
to continue his studies. Monsieur Örn shook
him very heartily by the hand, and they agreed
to meet when Monsieur Örn visited Stockholm,
as he assured Monsieur Lundquist he had
always intended to do sooner or later; but I do
not think there was any doubt that Monsieur
Örn was as heartily glad to see the Swede’s
back as Monsieur Lundquist to escape from
Monsieur Örn.
     Curiously enough, Widmerpool, although
the sole author of the reconciliation, received
little or no credit for his achievement. During
the few days left to them after they had made
things up, Monsieur Örn and Monsieur
Lundquist used sometimes to walk up and
down in the garden together, when Widmerpool
would occasionally try to join them; but I
noticed that they would always stroll away
from him, or refuse to speak English, or French,
which debarred him from conversation. It was
hard to say whether or not he noticed this; his
last week at La Grenadière being, in any case,
blighted by another matter, in its way,
sufficiently provoking for him. This was the
appearance on the wall of the cabinet de
toilette of a crude, though not unaccomplished,
representation of himself – somewhat in the
style of the prehistoric drawings of the caves in
the Dordogne – in this case scratched on the
plaster with a sharp instrument.
    Two things about this composition seemed
to me certain: first, that it was intended as a
portrait of Widmerpool: secondly, that the
artist was French. Beyond these external facts,
that seemed to admit of no critical doubt, I was
completely at sea as to where responsibility
might lie; nor could I be sure of the moment
when the design was completed. At the time
when I first became aware of its existence,
Widmerpool had been out of temper all the
previous day; so that his eye had probably
fallen on the picture some twenty-four hours or
more before it came to my own notice. I could
not help wondering whether he would mention
the subject.
    That evening he remarked: “I really think
something should be done about those two
French boys.”
     “What have they been up to now?”
     “Haven’t you noticed a drawing on one of
the walls?”
     “A sort of scrawl?” I asked, rather
dishonestly.
     “I don’t know what it is meant to be,” said
Widmerpool. “And although it is not exactly
indecent, it is suggestive, which is worse. I
hardly like to mention it to Madame Leroy,
though I certainly think it should be removed.”
     “How would you remove it?”
     “Well, paint over it, or something like that.
It is Paul-Marie, I suppose.”
     He said no more about the picture; but I
knew that its existence embittered his
remaining days at La Grenadière .
     I felt some curiosity myself as to the
identity of the draughtsman, and was not at all
sure that Widmerpool was right in recognising
the work of Paul-Marie. If one of the boys was
to be suspected, I should have put my money
on Jean-Népomucène, who might easily have
felt a sudden need to express himself in some
graphic medium, in order to compete with the
conversational gifts in which his elder brother
excelled. However, there was no reason to
suppose that he was good at drawing, and,
especially on account of the facility displayed,
the possibility that neither of the boys was
responsible could not be disregarded.
    I thought in turn of the other persons in the
house. On the whole it was hardly likely to be
attributable to Madame Leroy, or her husband.
Berthe, it was true, had sometimes boasted of
her sketches in water-colour: though this would
have been an oblique and perverse manner of
advertising her talent. I could not even bear to
consider that the hand might have been
Suzette’s, dismissing all consideration of such a
thing from my mind. Rosalie worked too hard
all day to have had time to make the deep
incisions in the wall: she was also short-sighted.
Marthe was invariably in the kitchen, and she
could hardly ever have had the opportunity to
observe Widmerpool’s appearance with
sufficient thoroughness to have achieved so
striking a likeness. It was doubtful whether
Madame Dubuisson possessed the creative
imagination: though there could be no question
that the drawing must have appealed,
especially, to her own brand of humour.
Monsieur Dubuisson sometimes cleaned out his
pipe with a sharp, stiletto-like instrument that
could have been used as an etching-point.
    There remained the contingency that
Widmerpool might have derived some obscure
gratification in the production of a self-portrait
in such inappropriate circumstances: though
here, as an objection, one came up against the
essential Frenchness of the design. If
Widmerpool himself had indeed been the artist,
his display of annoyance had been a superb
piece of acting: and it was not credible to me
that anything so improbable was at the root of
the mystery, perplexity was increased a day or
two later by the addition to the picture of
certain extraneous details, in pencil, which,
personally, I should have been prepared to
swear belonged in spirit to a school of drawing
other than that of the originator. However,
these appendages may not have been
attributable to any single individual. They were
mannered, and less sure of touch. This business
was never referred to in my presence by
anyone except Widmerpool, and then only on
that single occasion; though I had reason to
suppose that Paul-Marie and Jean-
Népomucène used to joke with each other
privately on the subject.
    When Widmerpool left for England, soon
after this, the riddle remained unsolved. He
was by then full of a project he had in mind for
rearranging his legal books and papers; and,
although he muttered that he hoped we might
meet again, if I ever came to London, he was
preoccupied,      evidently thinking of more
important matters. It was as if he had already
dismissed from his mind the frivolities of
Touraine, and peculiarities of the inhabitants of
La Grenadière , even before he climbed into the
grognard’s taxi: which had not yet begun its
habitual panting and heaving, as its owner was
accustomed to coast downhill for the first part
of the journey, with a view to saving petrol.
    The space left at La Grenadière by the
withdrawal of Monsieur Lundquist was filled by
Dr. Szczepanowski, a quiet Pole, with gold
pince-nez, who wore the rosette of the Légion
d’ Honne ur in his button-hole. Monsieur
Dubuisson used to take him for walks, during
which, no doubt, he explained some of his
theories, including the Moroccan hydraulic
scheme. The morning after Widmerpool’s
departure, another visitor arrived, though for a
few days only. This was the father of Paul-
Marie and Jean-Népomucène, who was the
double of the Frenchman with the Assyrian
beard who had occupied my seat in the train on
the journey from Paris. Perhaps it was even the
man himself: if so, he made no reference to the
incident. His presence had a sedative effect on
his two sons. Monsieur Dubuisson did not
approve of his handling of the French language;
warning me not to imitate their father’s
construction of his sentences, especially in
connection with his use of the preterite.
Madame Leroy, on the other hand, greatly
admired her relative.
    “Quel brave Papa” she used to say, gazing
at him, as he used to set off down the hill in his
straw hat and black gloves.
    I never discovered precisely what relation
each was to the other, but Madame Leroy’s
glance seemed to imply that life might have had
more compensations if she had married some
bearded, titanic figure of this kind, rather than
Commandant Leroy. Familiarity with her had
not dispelled my impression that she was a kind
of sorceress. Life at La Grenadière was not
altogether like life in the outer world. Its usage
suggested a stage in some clandestine order’s
ritual of initiation. For a time the presence of
Widmerpool had prolonged the illusion that he
and I were still connected by belonging to the
community of school: and that all that had
happened since I had seen him last was that
each of us was a year or two older. As the
weeks passed at La Grenadière, the changes
that had clearly taken place in Widmerpool
since he had ceased to be a schoolboy
emphasised the metamorphosis that had
happened within myself. Now that he had
moved on, his absence from La Grenadière
made amputation from that earlier stage of life
complete; and one day, when Suzette asked me
something or other about the way lessons were
taught in England, I was surprised to find
forgotten the details of what had been for so
long a daily routine.
    It was, I suppose, an awareness of this
change in circumstance that made me
increasingly conscious, as the close of my stay
in France approached, of the necessity to adopt
an attitude towards life, in a general way, more
enterprising. This aim owed something to
remarks Widmerpool had addressed to me at
one time or another; but it was directed
particularly towards the project of taking some
active step – exactly what step remained
undecided – in solving the problem of Suzette:
who had established herself as a dominating
preoccupation, to which any recollection of Jean
Templer was now, on the whole, subordinate.
In spite of prolonged thought devoted to this
subject, I managed to devise no more resolute
plan than a decision to make some sort of
declaration to her when the day came to leave
t he house: a course of action which, although
not remarkable for its daring, would at any rate
mark some advance from a state of chronic
inaction in such matters from which escape
seemed so difficult. The question was: how best
to arrange this approach?
     Having seen other guests depart from La
Grenadière , I knew that the entire household
was accustomed to gather round, saying good-
bye, and waiting to watch the taxi slide
precipitously down the hill. If the question were
to arise, for example, of kissing anyone good-
bye, it was clear that there might be imminent
risk of having to kiss – if such a hypothetical
case as kissing were to be considered at all –
t h e whole of the rest of the party gathered
together at the door in the wall. Certainly, it
might be safely assumed that nothing of the
sort would be expected by anyone so anglicised
as Monsieur Dubuisson: but I was not at all
sure what French etiquette might prescribe in
the case of guest and host: though suspecting
that anything of the sort was, in general, limited
to investitures. It was equally possible that any
such comparatively intimate gesture might be
regarded as far more compromising in France
than in England; and, quite apart from any
embarrassing, or unacceptable, situations that
might be precipitated if kissing were to become
general at my departure from La Grenadière ,
a ny hope of making a special impression on
Suzette would undoubtedly be lost by collective
recourse to this manner of saying good-bye:
however pleasant in Suzette’s individual case
such a leave-taking might be. Some plan was,
therefore, required if a hasty decision was to be
avoided.
    Accordingly I finished packing early upon
the day I was to return to England, and went
downstairs to survey the house and garden.
The hot weather had continued throughout my
stay, and the sun was already beating down on
the lawn, where no one except Dr.
Szczepanowski was to be seen. I noticed that
Suzette’s big straw sun-bonnet was gone from
the hall, where she was accustomed to leave it
on the console table. Bum had once found it
there, carrying the hat into the garden and
gnawing away some of the brim. Dr.
Szczepanowski was writing letters, and he
smiled in a friendly manner. Jean-Népomucène
appeared at one of the tables a moment later,
and requested help in mending an electric
torch, as Dr. Szczepanowski was skilled in such
matters. Both of them retired to the house to
find suitable implements to employ in making
the repairs. There was just a chance that
Suzette might be sitting in the summer-house,
where she occasionally spent some of the
morning reading.
     I crossed the grass quickly, and went under
t h e arch, preparing to withdraw if Monsieur
Dubuisson should turn out to be settled there
with his pipe. The excitement of seeing
Suzette’s straw bonnet was out of all proportion
to the undecided nature of my project. She was
sitting half-turned from the entrance, and,
judging that, if I lost time in talk, I might be
manoeuvred into a position of formality which
could impose insuperable restraint, I muttered
that I had come to say good-bye, and took her
hand, which, because her arm was stretched
along the back of the seat, lay near me. As she
turned, I immediately realised that the hand
was, in fact, Madame Dubuisson’s, who, as she
left the house, must have taken up Suzette’s
straw hat to shield her eyes while she crossed
the garden.
    It was now too late to retreat. I had
prepared a few sentences to express my
feelings, and I was already half-way through
one of them. Having made the mistake, there
was nothing for it but to behave as if it were
indeed Madame Dubuisson who had made my
visit to La Grenadière seem so romantic.
Taking her other hand, I quickly used up the
remaining phrases that I had rehearsed so
often for Suzette.
    The only redeeming feature of the whole
business was that Madame Dubuisson herself
gave not the smallest sign of being in the least
surprised. I cannot remember in what words
she answered my halting assurance that her
presence at La Grenadière would remain for
me by far its sweetest memory; but I know
that her reply was entirely adequate: indeed so
well rounded that it seemed to have been made
use of on a number of earlier occasions when
she must have found herself in somewhat
similar circumstances. She was small and round
and, I decided, really not at all bad-looking. Her
contribution to the situation I had induced was,
at least from my own point of view, absolutely
suitable. She may even have allowed me to kiss
her on the cheek, though I could not swear to
this. She asked me to send her a picture of
Buck ingham Palace when I returned to
England.
    This scene, although taking up only a few
minutes, exhausted a good deal of nervous
energy. I recognised that there could now be no
question of repeating anything of the same sort
with Suzette herself, even if opportunity were
to present itself in the short time left to me.
That particular card had been played, and the
curious thing was that its effect had been to
provide some genuine form of emotional
release. It was almost as if Madame Dubuisson
had, indeed, been the focus of my interest while
I had been at La Grenadière. I began to feel
quite warmly towards her, largely on the
strength of the sentiments I had, as it were,
automatically expressed. When the time came
to say goodbye, hands were shaken all round.
Suzette gave mine a little squeeze, after
relaxing the first grip. I felt that this small
attention was perhaps more than I deserved.
The passage with Madame Dubuisson seemed
at any rate a slight advance in the right
direction when I thought things over in the
train. It was nearly Christmas before I found
the postcard of Buckingham Palace, which
perhaps never reached her, as the Dubuissons
must, by then, have moved on from La
Grenadière.

                      *
4
PROLONGED, LUGUBRIOUS stretches of
Sunday afternoon in a university town could be
mitigated by attending Sillery’s tea-parties, to
which anyone might drop in after half-past
three. Action of some law of averages always
regulated numbers at these gatherings to
something between four and eight persons,
mostly undergraduates, though an occasional
don was not unknown. Towards the middle of
my first term I was introduced to them by
Short, who was at Sillery’s college, a mild
second-year man, with political interests. Short
explained that Sillery’s parties had for years
played an established role in the life of the
university; and that the staleness of the rock-
buns, which formed a cardinal element of these
at-homes, had become so hackneyed a subject
for academical humour that even Sillery himself
would sometimes refer to the perennially
unpalatable essence of these fossils salvaged
from some forgotten cake-world. At such
moments Sillery would remind his guests of
waggish or whimsical remarks passed on the
topic of the rock-buns by an earlier generation
of young men who had taken tea with him in
bygone days: quoting in especial the galaxy of
former undergraduate acquaintances who had
risen to some eminence in later life, a class he
held in unconcealed esteem.
    Loitering about the college in aged sack-like
clothes and Turkish slippers, his snow white
hair worn longer than that of most of his
colleagues, Sillery could lay claim to a venerable
appearance: though his ragged, Old Bill
moust ache (which, he used laughingly to
mention,      had once been compared with
Nietszche’s) was still dark. He was, indeed, no
m o r e than entering into his middle fifties:
merely happening to find convenient a façade of
comparative senility. At the beginning of the
century he had published a book called City
State and State of City which had achieved
some slight success at a time when works
popularising political science and economic
theory were beginning to sell; but he was not
ambitious to make his mark as an author. In
fact one or two of his pupils used to complain
that they did not receive even adequate tuition
to get them through the schools at anything but
the lowest level. This was probably an unjust
charge, because Sillery was not a man to put
himself easily in the wrong. In any case,
circumstances had equipped him with such
dazzling opportunity for pursuing his
preponderant activity of interfering in other
people’s business that only those who failed to
grasp the extent of his potentiality in his own
chosen sphere would expect – or desire – him
to concentrate on a pedestrian round of tutorial
duties.
     Before my first visit, Short described some
of this background with care; and he seemed to
feel certain qualms of conscience regarding
what he termed “Sillers’s snobisme.” He
explained that it was natural enough that
Sillery should enjoy emphasising the fact that
he numbered among his friends and former
pupils a great many successful people; and I
fully accepted his plea. Short, however, was
unwilling to encounter too ready agreement on
this point, and he insisted that “all the same”
Sillery would have been “a sounder man” –
sounder, at any rate, politically – if he had
made a greater effort to resist, or at least
conceal, this temptation to admire worldly
success overmuch. Short himself was devoted
to politics, a subject in which I took little or no
interest, and his keenest ambition was to
become a Member of Parliament. Like a
number of young men of that period, he was a
Liberal, though to which of the various brands
of Liberalism, then rent by schism, he belonged,
I can no longer remember. It was this Liberal
enthusiasm which had first linked him with
Sillery, who had been on terms with Asquith,
and who liked to keep an eye on a political
party in which he had perhaps once himself
placed hopes of advancement. Short also
informed me that Sillery was a keen
propagandist for the League of Nations,
Czechoslovakia, and Mr. Gandhi, and that he
had been somewhat diverted from earlier
Gladstonian enthusiasms by the success of the
Russian Revolution of 1917.
    Short had taken me to Sillery’s two or three
times before I found myself – almost against
my own inclination – dropping in there en
Sunday afternoon. At first I was disposed to
look on Sillery merely as a kind of glorified
schoolmaster – a more easy going and
amenable Le Bas – who took out the boys in
turn to explore their individual characteristics
to know better how to instruct them. This was
a manner of regarding Sillery’s entertaining so
crude as to be positively misleading. He
certainly wanted to find out what the boys were
like: but not because he was a glorified
schoolmaster. His understanding of human
nature, coarse, though immensely serviceable,
and his unusual ingenuity of mind were both
e m p l o y e d ceaselessly   in     discovering
undergraduate connections which might be of
use to him; so that from what he liked to call
“my backwater” – the untidy room, furnished,
as he would remark, like a boarding-house
parlour – he sometimes found himself able to
exercise a respectable modicum of influence in
a larger world. That, at least, was how things
must have appeared to Sillery himself, and in
such activities his spirit was concentrated.
    Clay, for example, was the son of a consul in
the Levant. Sillery arranged a little affair
through Clay which caused inconvenience,
minor but of a most irritating kind, to
Brightman, a fellow don unsympathetic to him,
at that time engaged in archaeological digging
on a site in the Near East. Lakin, outwardly a
dull, even unattractive young man, was
revealed as being related through his mother to
a n important Trade Union official. Sillery
discovered this relative – a find that showed
something like genius – and managed to pull
unexpected, though probably not greatly
important, strings when the General Strike
came in 1926. Rajagopalaswarm’s uncle, noted
for the violence of his anti-British sentiments,
was in a position to control the appointment of a
tutor to one of the Ruling Princes; Sillery’s
nominee got the place. Dwight Wideman’s aunt
was a powerful influence in the women’s clubs
in America: a successful campaign was
inaugurated to ban the American edition of a
novel by an author Sillery disliked. Flannigan-
Fitzgerald’s brother was a papal chamberlain:
the Derwentwater annulment went through
without a hitch. These, at least, were the things
that people said; and the list of accessories
c o u l d be prolonged with almost endless
instances. All were swept into Sillery’s net, and
the undergraduate had to be obscure indeed to
find no place there. Young peers and heirs to
fortune were not, of course, unwelcome; though
such specimens as these – for whose friendship
competition was already keen – were usually
brought into the circle through the offices of
secondary agents rather than by the direct
approach of Sillery himself, who was aware that
in a society showing signs of transition it was
essential to keep an eye on the changing focus
of power. All the same, if he was known to
incline, on the whole, to the Right socially,
politically he veered increasingly to the Left.
    In the course of time I found that much
difference of opinion existed as to the practical
outcome of Sillery’s scheming, and I have
merely presented the picture as first displayed
to me through the eyes of Short. To Short,
Sillery was a mysterious, politically-minded
cardinal of the academical world, “never taking
his tea without an intrigue” (that was the
phrase Short quoted); for ever plotting behind
the     arras.    Others, of course, thought
differently, some saying that the Sillery legend
was based on a kind of kaleidoscope of muddled
information, collected in Sillery’s almost crazed
brain, that his boasted powers had no basis
whatever in reality: others again said that
Sillery certainly knew a great number of people
and passed round a lot of gossip, which in itself
gave him some claim to consideration as a
comparatively influential person, though only a
subordinate one. Sillery had his enemies,
naturally, always anxious to denigrate his life’s
work, and assert that he was nothing more than
a figure of fun; and there was probably
something to be said at least for the contention
that Sillery himself somewhat exaggerated the
effectiveness of his own activities. In short,
Sillery’s standing remained largely a matter of
opinion; though there could be no doubt about
his turning out to be an important factor in
shaping Stringham’s career at the university.
    Stringham had been due to come into
residence the same term as myself, but he was
thrown from a horse a day or two before his
intended return to England, and consequently
laid up for several months. As a result of the
accident, he did not appear at his college until
the summer when he took against the place at
once. He could scarce be persuaded to visit
other undergraduates, except one two that he
had known at school, and he used to spend
hours together sitting in his room, reading
detective stork and complaining that he was
bored. He had been given small car by his
mother and we would sometimes drive round
the country together, looking at churches or
visiting pubs.
    On the whole he had enjoyed Kenya. When
I told him about Peter Templer and Gwen
McReith – an anecdote that seemed to me of
oustanding significance – he said: “Oh, well,
that sort of thing is not as difficult as all that,”
and he proceeded to describe a somewhat
similar incident, in which, after a party, he had
spent the night with the divorced wife of a
coffee planter in Nairobi. In spite of Madame
Dubuisson, this story made me feel very
inexperienced. I described Suzette to him, but
did not mention Jean Templer.
    “There      is absolutely nothing in it,”
Stringham said. “It is just a question of keeping
one’s head.”
    He was more interested in what I had to
report about Widmerpool, laughing a lot over
Widmerpool’s horror on hearing the whole
truth of Le Bas’s arrest. The narrative of the
Scandinavians’ quarrel struck him only on
account of the oddness of the tennis court on
which we had been playing the set. This
surprised me, because the incident had seemed
of the kind to appeal to him. He had, however,
changed a little in the year or more that had
passed since I had seen him; and, although the
artificial categories of school life were now
removed, I felt for the first time that the few
months between us made him appreciably
older than myself. There was also the question
of money – perhaps suggested by
Widmerpool’s talk on that subject – that
mysterious entity, of which one had heard so
much and so often without grasping more than
that its ownership was desirable and its lack
inconvenient:      heard of, certainly, without
appreciating that its possession can become as
much part of someone as the nose on the face.
Even Uncle Giles’s untiring contortions before
the altar of the Trust, when considered in this
light, now began to appear less grotesque
formerly; and I realised at last, with great
clearness, that a sum like one hundred and
eighty pounds a year might indeed be worth
the pains of prolonged and acrimonious
negotiation.      Stringham was, in fact, not
substantially richer than most undergraduates
of his sort, and, being decidedly free with his
money, was usually hard-up, but from the
foothills of his background was, now and then,
wafted the disturbing, aromatic perfume of
gold, the scent which, even at this early stage in
our lives, could sometimes be observed to act
intoxicatingly on chance acquaintances; whose
unexpected perseverance, and determination
not to take offence, were a reminder that
Stringham’s mother was what Widmerpool had
described as “immensely wealthy.”
     Peter Templer, as I have said, rarely wrote
letters, so that we had, to some extent, lost
touch with him. Left to himself there could be
little doubt that he would, in Stringham’s
phr ase , “relapse into primeval barbarism.”
Stringham often spoke of him, and used to talk,
almost with regret, of the adventures they had
shared at school: already, as it were, beginning
to live in the past. Some inward metamorphosis
was no doubt the cause of Stringham’s
melancholia, because his attacks of gloom,
although qualified by fairly frequent outbursts
of high spirits, could almost be given that name.
There was never a moment when he became
reconciled to the life going on round him. “The
buildings are nice,” he used to say. “But not the
undergraduates.”
     “What do you expect undergraduates to be
like?”
     “Keep bull-pups and drink brandies-and-
soda. They won’t do as they are.”
    “Your sort sound even worse.”
    “Anyway, what can one do here? I am
seriously thinking of running away and joining
the Foreign Legion or the North-West Mounted
Police – whichever work the shorter hours.”.
    “It is the climate.”
    “One feels awful if one drinks, and worse if
one’s sober. I knew Buster’s picture of the jolly
old varsity was not to be trusted. After all he
never tried it himself.”
    “How is he?”
    “Doing his best to persuade my mother to
let Glimber to an Armenian,” said Stringham,
and speaking with perhaps slightly more
seriousness: “You know, Tuffy was very much
against my coming up.”
    “What on earth did it have to do with her?”
    “She takes a friendly interest in me,” said
Stringham, laughing. “She behaved rather well
when I was in Kenya as a matter of fact. Used
to send me books, and odds and ends of gossip,
and all that sort of thing. One appreciates that
in the wide open spaces. She is not a bad old
girl. Many worse.”
    He was always a trifle on the defensive
about Miss Weedon. I had begun to understand
that his life at home was subject to exterior
forces like Buster’s disapproval, or Miss
Weedon’s regard, which brought elements of
uncertainty and discord into his family life, not
only accepted by him, but almost enjoyed. He
went on: “There has been talk of my staying
here only a couple of years and going into the
Foot Guards. You know there is some sort of
arrangement now for entering the army
through the university. That was really my
mother’s idea.”
    “What does Miss Weedon think?”
    “She favours coming to London and having
a good time. I am rather with her there. The
Household Cavalry has been suggested, too.
One is said – for some reason – to ‘have a good
time in The Tins’.”
    “And Buster’s view?”
    “He would like me to remain here as long as
possible – four years, post-graduate course,
research fellowship, anything so long as I stay
away – since I shattered his dream that I might
settle in Kenya.” It was after one of these
conversations in which he had complained of
the uneventfulness of his day that I suggested
that we should drop in on Sillery.
     “What is Sillery?”
     I repeated some of Short’s description of
Sillery, adding a few comments of my own.
     “Oh, yes,” said Stringham. “I remember
about him now. Well, I suppose one can try
everything once.”
     We were, as it happened, first to arrive at
that particular party. Sillery, who had just
finished writing a pile of letters, the top one of
which, I could not avoid seeing, was addressed
to a Cabinet Minister, was evidently delighted
to have an opportunity to work over
Stringham, whom he recognised immediately
on hearing the name.
     “How is your mother?” he said, “Do you
know, I have not seen her since the private
view of the Royal Academy in 1914. No, I
believe we met later at a party given by Mrs.
Hwfa Williams, if my memory serves me.”
     He continued with a stream of questions,
and for once Stringham, who had shown little
interest in coming to the party, seemed quite
taken aback by Sillery’s apparent familiarity
with his circumstances.
     “And your father?” said Sillery, grinning, as
if in spite of himself, under his huge moustache.
“Pretty well.”
     “You were staying with him in Kenya?”
     “For a few months.”
     “The climate suits him all right?”
     “I think so.”
     “That height above sea-level is hard on the
blood-pressure,” Sillery said; “but your father
is unexpectedly strong in spite of his light build.
Does that shrapnel wound of his ever give
trouble?”
     “He feels it in thundery weather.”
     “He must take care of it,” said Sillery. “Or
he will find himself on his back for a time, as he
did after that spill on the Cresta. Has he run
across Dicky Umfraville yet?”
     “They see a good deal of each other.”
     “Well, well,” said Sillery. “He must take care
about that, too. But I must attend to my other
guests, and not talk all the time about old
friends.”
    I had the impression that Sillery regarded
Stringham’s father as a falling market, so far as
business was concerned; and, although he did
not mention Buster, he was evidently far more
interested in Mrs. Foxe’s household than that
of her former husband. However, the room was
now filling up, and Sillery began introducing
some of the new arrivals to each other and to
Stringham and myself. There was a sad Finn –
called as nearly as I could catch – Vaalkiipaa:
Honthorst, an American Rhodes Scholar, of
millionaire stock on both sides of his family: one
of Sillery’s pupils, a small nervous young man
who never spoke, addressed as “Paul,” whose
surname I did not discover: and Mark
Members, of some standing among the
freshmen of my year, on account of a poem
published      in P u b l i c School Verse and
favourably noticed by Edmund Gosse. Up to
that afternoon I had only seen Members
hurrying about the streets, shaking from his
round, somewhat pasty face a brownish,
uneven fringe that grew low on his forehead
and made him look rather like a rag doll, or
marionette: an air augmented by brown eyes
like beads, and a sprinkling of freckles. His tie, a
broad, loose knot, left the collar of his shirt a
little open. I admired this lack of self-
consciousness regarding what I then – rather
priggishly – looked on as eccentricity of dress.
He appeared to have known Sillery all his life,
calling him “Sillers,” a form of address which, in
spite of several tea-parties attended, I had not
yet summoned courage to employ. The
American, Honthorst’s, hair was almost as
uncontrolled as that of Members. It stood up on
the top of his head like the comb, or crest, of a
hoopoe, or cassowary, this bird-like appearance
being increased by a long, bare neck, ending in
a white collar cut drastically low. Honthorst had
a good-natured, dazed countenance, and it was
hard to know what to say to him. Vaalkiipaa
was older than the rest of the undergraduates
present. He had a round, sallow face with high
cheekbones, and, although anxious to be
agreeable, he could not understand why he was
not allowed to talk about his work, a subject
always vetoed by Sillery.
     Conversation was now mostly between
Sillery and Members; with the awkward long
silences which always characterised the teas.
During one of these pauses, Sillery, pottering
about the room with the plate of rock-buns,
remarked: “There is a freshman named
Quiggin who said he would take a dish of tea
with me this afternoon. He comes from a
modest home, and is, I think, a little sensitive
about it, so I hope you will all be specially
understanding with him. He is at one of the
smaller colleges – I cannot for the moment
remember which – and he has collected unto
himself sundry scholarships and exhibitions,
which is – I think you will all agree – much to
his credit.”
     This was a fairly typical thumb-nail sketch
of the kind commonly dispensed by Sillery, in
anticipation of an introduction: true as far as it
went, though giving little or no clue to the real
Quiggin: even less to the reason why he had
been asked to tea. Indeed, at that period, I did
not even grasp that there was always a reason
for Sillery’s invitations, though the cause might
be merely to give opportunity for preliminary
investigation: sometimes not worth a follow-up.
    No one, of course, made any comment after
this speech about Quiggin, because there was
really no suitable comment to make. The
mention of scholarships once more started off
Vaalkiipaa on the subject of his difficulties
obtaining useful instruction from attendance at
lectures while Honthorst, almost equally
anxious to discuss educational matters in a
serious manner, joined in on the question of
gaps in the college library and – as he alleged –
out-of-date methods of indexing. Honthorst
persisted in addressing Sillery as “sir,” in spite
of repeated requests from his host that he
should discard this solecism. Sillery was deftly
cir cumv ent ing combined Finnish-American
attack, by steering the conversation toward
New England gossip by way of hunting in Maine
– while at the same time extracting from
Vaalkiipaa apparently unpalatable facts about
the anti-Swedish movement in Finland – when
Quiggin himself arrived: making his presence
known by flinging open the door suddenly to its
fullest extent, so that it banged against one of
the bookcases, knocking over a photograph in a
silver frame of three young men in top-hats
standing in a row, arm-in-arm.
    “Come in,” said Sillery, picking up the
picture, and setting it back in its place. “Come
in, Quiggin. Don’t be shy. We shan’t eat you.
This is Liberty Hall. Let me introduce you to
some of my young friends. Here is Mr. Cheston
Honthorst, who has travelled all the way from
America to be a member of my college: and this
is Mr. Jenkins, reading history like yourself:
and Mr. Stringham, who has been to East
Africa, though his home is that beautiful house,
Glimber: and Mr. Vaalkiipaa – rather a difficult
name, which we shall soon find that we have all
got so used to that we shan’t be able to
understand how we ever found it difficult – and
Paul, here, you probably know from
Brightman’s lectures, which he tells me he
loyally attends just as you do; and I nearly
forgot Mr. Mark Members, whose name will be
familiar to you if you like modern verse – and I
am sure you do – so make a place on the sofa,
Mark, and Quiggin can sit next to you.”
     At first sight, Quiggin seemed to be
everything suggested by Sillery’s description.
He looked older than the rest of us: older, even,
than Vaalkiipaa. Squat, and already going bald,
his high forehead gave him the profile of a
professor in a comic paper. His neck was
encircled with a starched and grubby collar, his
trousers kept up by a belt which he constantly
adjusted. For the first time since coming up I
felt that I was at last getting into touch with the
submerged element of the university, which, I
had sometimes suspected, might have more to
offer than was to be found in conventional
undergraduate circles. Mark Members was
evidently impressed by a similar – though in
his case unsympathetic – sense of something
unusual so far as Quiggin was concerned;
be cause he drew away his legs, hitherto
stretched the length of the sofa, and brought his
knees right up to his chin, clasping his hands
round them in the position shown in a picture
(that used to hang in the nursery of a furnished
house we had once inhabited at Colchester)
called The Boyhood of Raleigh; while he
regarded Quiggin with misgiving.
    “Couldn’t find the way up here for a long
time,” said Quiggin.
    He sat down on the sofa, and, speaking in a
small, hard voice with a North Country
inflexion, addressed himself to Members:
seeming to be neither embarrassed by the
company, nor by Sillery’s sledge-hammer
phrases, aimed, supposedly, at putting him at
his ease. He went on: “It’s difficult when you’re
new to a place. I’ve been suffering a bit here” –
indicating his left ear which was stuffed with
yellowish cotton-wool —” so that I may not
catch all you say too clearly.”
    Members offered the ghost of a smile; but
there could be no doubt of his uneasiness, as he
tried to catch Sillery’s eye. However, Sillery,
determined that his eye was not to be caught
by Members, said: “The first year is a greaf
period of discovery – and of self-discovery, too.
What do you say, Vaalkiipaa? Can you find your
way about yet?
     “I      make progress,” said Vaalkiipaa,
unsmiling: to whom it was perhaps not clear
whether Sillery’s question referred to discovery
in the topographical sense or the more intimate
interior examination with which Sillery had
linked it. There was a silence, at the end of
which Members put in, rather at random:
“Sillers, it is too clever of you to buy a suit the
same colour as your loose covers.”
     Quiggin sat sourly on the extreme edge of
the sofa, glancing round the room like a fierce
little animal, trapped by naturalists. He had
accepted a rock-bun from Sillery, and for some
minutes this occupied most of his attention.
Honthorst said: “They tell me the prospects for
the college boat are pretty good, Professor
Sillery.”
     “Good,” said Sillery, making a deprecatory
gesture in our direction to suggest his own
unworthiness of this style of address. “Good.
Very good.”
     He said this with emphasis, though without
in any way committing his opinion on the
subject of current aquatics. It was evident that
at present Quiggin was the guest who chiefly
interested him. Stringham he must have
regarded as already in his power because,
although he smiled towards him in a friendly
manner from time to time, he made no further
e ffor t to talk to him individually. Quiggin
finished his rock-bun, closely watched by
Sillery, picked some crumbs from his trousers,
and from the carpet round him: afterwards
throwing these carefully into the grate. Just as
Quiggin had dealt with the last crumb,
Members rose suddenly from the sofa and cast
himself, with a startling bump, almost full
length on the floor in front of the fireplace:
exchanging in this manner his Boyhood-of-
Raleigh posture for that of the Dying Gladiator.
Sillery, whose back was turned, started
violently, and Members pleaded: “You don’t
mind, Sillers? I always lie on the floor.”
     “I like my guests to feel at home, Mark,”
said Sillery, recovering himself immediately,
and playfully pinching the nape of Members’s
neck between his finger and thumb, so that
Members hunched his shoulders and squeaked
shrilly.
    “And you, Quiggin, are you happy?” Sillery
asked.
    Quiggin shook his head at the rock-buns,
held out towards him once more; and,
apparently taking the question to have a more
general application than as a mere enquiry as to
whether or not he wanted another cup of tea, or
was comfortable sitting, as he was, at the
springless end of the sofa, said in reply: “No,
I’m not.” Sillery was enchanted with this
answer.
    “Not happy?” he said, as if he could not
believe his ears.
    “Never seem to get enough peace to get any
work done,” said Quiggin. “Always somebody or
other butting in.”
    Sillery beamed, proffering the plate once
more round the room, though without success.
Quiggin, as if something , had been released
within him, now began to enlarge on the matter
of his own exasperation. He said: “All anyone
here seems interested in is in messing about
with some game or other, or joining some
society or club, or sitting up all night drinking
too much. I thought people came to the
university to study, not to booze and gas all the
time.”
     “Very good, Quiggin, very good,” said
Sillery. “You find we all fall woefully short of
your own exacting standards – formed, no
doubt, in a more austere tradition.”
     He smiled and rubbed his hands, entranced.
It even seemed that he might have been
waiting for some such outburst on Quiggin’s
part: and Quiggin himself somehow gave the air
of having made the same speech on other
occasions.
     “What an extraordinary person,” said
Members, under his breath, a remark probably
audible only to myself, owing to the fact that
the extreme lowness of the arm-chair in which
I was sitting brought my ear almost level with
Members’s mouth, as he rested with his elbow
on the floor. Sillery said: “What do you think,
Mark? Do you find that we are too frivolous?”
    Members began to say: “My dear Sillers —”
but, before he could speak the phrase, Sillery
cut him short by adding: “I thought you might
be in agreement with Quiggin as your homes
are so close, Mark.”
    After he had said this, Sillery stood back a
bit, as if to watch the effect of his words, still
holding the plate of rock-buns in his hand. If he
had hoped to strike dismay into the hearts of
his listeners, he could hardly have expected a
more successful result so far as Quiggin and
Members        were     concerned.     Members,
thoroughly, put out, went pink in the face;
Quiggin’s expression became distinctly sourer
than before, though he did not change colour. “I
had a suspicion that neither of you was aware of
this,” said Sillery. “But you must live
practically in the same street.”
    He nodded his head several times, and
changed the subject; or, at least, varied it by
asking if I had ever read Jude the Obscure. I
realised, without achieving any true
comprehension of what Sillery was about, that
the object of revealing publicly that Members
and Quiggin lived close to each other during the
vacation was intended in some manner to bring
both to heel: in any case I did not know enough
of either at the time to appreciate that each
might prefer that any details regarding his
home life should be doled out by himself alone.
     Sillery abandoned the subject after this
demonstration of strength on his part, so that
the rest of his guests were left in ignorance
even of the name of the town Members and
Quiggin inhabited. The American and the Finn
slipped away soon after this, on the plea that
they must work; in spite of protests from
Sillery that no one could, or should, work on
Sunday evening. As they were leaving, another
visitor could be heard coming up the stairs. He
must have stood aside for them to pass him,
because a moment later, speaking in a
resonant, musical voice, like an actor’s or
practised after-dinner speaker’s, he said, as he
came through the door: “Hallo, Sillers, I hoped I
might catch you at home.”
     This new arrival I recognised as Bill
Truscott, who had gone down two or three
years before. I had never previously met him,
but I had seen him and knew his name well,
because he was one of those persons who, from
their earliest years, are marked down to do
great things; and who so often remain a legend
a t school, or university, for a period of time
after leaving the one or the other: sometimes
long after any hope remains, among the world
at large, that promise of earlier years will be
fulfilled. Sillery was known to be deeply
attached to Bill Truscott, though to what extent
he inwardly accepted the claims put forward for
Truscott’s brilliant future, it was not easy to
say. Outwardly, of course, he was a strong
promoter of these claims and, in some respects,
Truscott could be described as the most
characteristic specimen available of what Sillery
liked his friends to be; that is to say he was not
only successful and ambitious, but was also
quite well off for a bachelor (a state he showed
no sign of relinquishing), as his father, a Harley
Street specialist, recently deceased, had left
him a respectable capital. He had gained a good
degree, though only by the skin of his teeth, it
was rumoured, and, since academical honours
represented a good deal of his stock-in-trade,
this close shave regarding his “first” was
sometimes spoken of as an ominous sign.
However, the chief question seemed still to be
how best his brilliance should be employed. To
say that he could not make up his mind
whether to become in due course Prime
Minister, or a great poet, might sound
exaggerated (though Short had so described
Truscott’s dilemma), but in general he was at
any rate sufficiently highly regarded in the
university, by those who had heard of him, to
make him appear a fascinating, and almost
alarming, figure.
    After sitting down beside Sillery, Truscott
at first hardly spoke at all; but at the same time
his amused smile acted as a sort of charm on
the rest of the company, so that no one could
possibly have accused him, on the grounds of
this silence, of behaving in an ungracious
manner. He was tall and dark, with regular
features, caught rather too close together, and
the most complete self-assurance that can be
imagined. His clothes and hair, even his face,
seemed to give out a kind of glossiness, and
sense of prosperity, rather like Monsieur
Lundquist’s. He was already going a little grey,
and this added to his air of distinction,
preventing him from looking too young and
inexperienced. I addressed a remark to him
which he acknowledged simply by closing and
opening his eyes, making me feel that, the next
time I spoke, I ought to make an attempt to
find something a trifle less banal to say: though
his smile at the same time absolved me from
the slightest blame in falling so patently short of
his accustomed standards. I was not conscious
of being at all offended by this demeanour: on
the contrary, Truscott’s comportment seemed
a kind of spur to encourage all who came to win
his esteem; although – and perhaps because –
he was obviously prepared to offer nothing in
return.
    If Bill Truscott’s arrival in the room made a
fairly notable impression on myself, chiefly on
account of the glowing picture Short had drawn
of his charm and brilliance, the rest of Sillery’s
party treated Truscott, if possible, with even
closer         attention.        Members moved
unobtrusively from the floor to a chair, and
Quiggin, one of the legs of whose trousers had
rucked up, revealing long hirsute pants of grey
material, pulled the end of his trouser down
towards a black sock, and sat more upright on
the sofa. Both he and Members evidently felt
that the opportunity had now arrived for
Sillery’s disclosure regarding the adjacency of
t h e ir respective homes to be forgotten in
discussion of more important matters.
Stringham turned out to know Truscott
already. He said: “Hallo, Bill,” and for a minute
or two they spoke of some party in London
where they had met a month or two before.
     “You must tell us about the polite world,
Bill,” said Sillery, perching on the side of
Truscott’s chair and slipping an arm round his
shoulder. “Fancy the hostesses allowing you to
steal away from their clutches and drop in to
visit us here.”
     Sillery made this remark gently, through his
teeth, so that it was not easy to say whether he
intended a compliment, an enquiry, or even an
expression of disparagement of the fact that
Truscott could spare time for dons and
undergraduates at this stage of the Season;
when a career had still to be carved out.
Truscott certainly accepted the words as
tribute to his popularity, and he threw his head
back with a hearty laugh to express how great a
relief it was for him to escape, even for a short
period, from the world of hostesses thus
somewhat terrifyingly pictured by Sillery:
though he was, at the same time, no doubt
aware that a more detailed explanation was
required of him to show conclusively that his
appearance in the university was due to
nothing so ominous as lacking something better
to do. “I have really come on business, Sillers,”
he said.
    “Indeed?”
    “I saw no reason why I should not combine
business with pleasure, Sillers. As you know,
Pleasure before Business has always been my
motto.”
    “Pleasure can be so exhausting,” put in
Members, fixing Truscott with a winning smile,
and thrusting his face forward a little.
     However, he seemed a little uncertain,
apart from his smile, how best to captivate
someone of Truscott’s eminence; though clearly
determined to make an impression before the
opportunity was past. Truscott, for his part,
glanced attentively at Members: an appraisal
that seemed to result in the decision that,
although outwardly Members had not much to
offer that was to Truscott’s taste, there might
be elements not to be despised intellectually.
Sillery watched their impact with evident
interest. He said: “I expect you read Iron
Aspidistra, Bill.”
     Truscott nodded; but without producing
any keen sense of conviction.
     “Mark’s poem,” said Sillery, “It received
quite a favourable reception.”
     “Surrounded as usual by a brilliant circle of
young men, Sillers,” said Truscott, laughing
loudly again. “To tell you the truth, Sillers, I
have come up to look for a young man myself.”
     Sillery chuckled, pricking up his ears.
Truscott stretched out his legs languidly. There
was a pause, and muted laughter from the rest
of the guests. Truscott looked round, archly.
     “For my boss as a matter of fact,” he said.
     He laughed quietly to himself this time, as if
that were a good joke. Quiggin, who had been
silent all the while, though not unattentive,
spoke unexpectedly in his grating voice: “Who
is ‘your boss’?” he asked.
     I could not help admiring the cool way in
which Truscott turned slowly towards Quiggin,
and said, without the slightest suggestion of
protest at Quiggin’s tone: “He is called Sir
Magnus Donners.”
     “The M.P.?”
     “I fear that, at the moment, he cannot be so
described.”
     “But you work for him?” insisted Quiggin.
     “Sir Magnus is kind enough to remunerate
me as if I worked for him,” said Truscott. “But
you know, really, I scarcely like to describe
myself as doing anything that suggests such
violent exertions undertaken on his behalf. He
is, in any case, the kindest of masters.”
    He cocked an eyebrow at Quiggin,
apparently not at all displeased by this rather
aggressive inquisition. As Truscott had not
witnessed      Quiggin’s    arrival and earlier
behaviour at the tea-party, I decided that he
must find him less odd than he appeared to the
rest of us: the thought perhaps he classed all
undergraduate opinion together as inchoate
substance, not to be handled too closely,
occurring to me only several years later, after I
had come down from the university. Sillery
said: “I don’t expect “your master,” as you call
him, would have much difficulty in returning to
the House at any by-election, would he, Bill?”
    “His industrial interests take up so much
time these days,” said Truscott. “And really one
must admit that ability of his sort is rather
wasted in the House of Commons.”
    “Isn’t he going to get a peerage?” said
Stringham, unexpectedly.
    Truscott smiled.
    “Always a possibility,” he said; and Sillery
grinned widely, rubbing his hands together, and
nodding quickly several times.
    “It’s a mortal shame that a big concern like
his should be in the hands of a private
individual,” said Quiggin, increasing the volume
of his North Country accent, and speaking as if
he were delivering the opening words of a
sermon or address.
    “Do you think so?” said Truscott. “Some
people do. Of course, Sir Magnus himself has
very progressive ideas, you know.”
    “I think you would be surprised, Quiggin, if
you ever met Sir Magnus,” said Sillery, “He has
even surprised me at times.”
    Quiggin looked as if there was nothing he
would like better than to have an opportunity
to meet Sir Magnus; but Sillery, who probably
feared that conversation might decline from the
handling of practical matters, like the disposal
of jobs, to one of those nebulous discussions of
economic right and wrong, of which he
approved in general but obviously considered
inopportune at that moment, brought back the
subject of Truscott’s opening statement by
saying: “And so Sir Magnus wants a man, does
he?” However, Truscott was not disposed to
say more of that for the time being. He may
even have thought that he had already given
away too much. His manner became
perceptibly less frivolous, and he said: “I’ll tell
you about it later, Sillers.”
    Sillery concurred. It was probable that he,
too, would prefer the details to be given in
private. However, he evidently regarded the
acquisition of further information on this
matter to be of prime importance; because a
minute or two later his impatience got the
better of him, and, rising from the arm of
Truscott’s chair, he announced: “Bill and I are a
pair of very old friends who haven’t seen each
other for many a long day, so that now I am
going to drive you all out into the wind and rain
in order that Bill and I can have a chat about
matters that would no doubt appear to you all
as very tedious.”
    He put his head a little on one side. Neither
Members nor Quiggin seemed very satisfied by
this pronouncement: not at all convinced that
they would find any such conversation tedious.
Members tried to make some sort of protest by
saying: “Now, Sillers, that is really too bad of
you, because you promised that you were going
to show me your Gerard Manley Hopkins letter
the next time I came to see you.”
     “And I wanted to borrow Fabian Essays, if
it wasn’t troubling you,” said Quiggin, very
sulky.
     “Another time, Mark, another time,” said
Sillery. “And you will find your book in that
shelf, Quiggin, with the other Webbs. Take
great care of it, because it’s a first edition with
an inscription.”
     Sillery was not at all discomposed, indeed he
seemed rather flattered, by these efforts on the
part of Members and Quiggin to stay and make
themselves better known to Truscott; but he
was none the less determined that they should
not stand between him and the particulars of
why Sir Magnus Donners wanted a young man;
and what sort of a young man Sir Magnus
Donners wanted, He made a sweeping
movement with his hands, as if driving chickens
before him in a farmyard, at the same time
remarking to Stringham: “You must come here
again soon. There are things I should like to
discuss interesting to ourselves.”
    He turned quickly, to prevent Quiggin from
taking too many of his books, and, at the same
time, to say something to the depressed
undergraduate called Paul. Stringham and I
went down the stairs, followed by Mark
Members, who, having failed to prolong his
visit, seemed now chiefly interested in escaping
from Sillery’s without having the company of
Quiggin thrust upon him. All three of us left the
college through an arched doorway that led to
the street. Rain had been falling while we were
at tea, but the pavements were now drying
under a woolly sky.
    “What very Monet weather it has been
lately,” said Members, almost to himself. “I
think I must hurry ahead now as I am meeting
a friend.”
    He disappeared into a side street, his yellow
tie caught up over his shoulder, his hands in his
pockets and elbows pressed to his sides. In a
moment he was lost to sight.
    “That must be a lie,” said Stringham. “He
couldn’t possibly have a friend.”
    “What was Truscott after?”
    “He is rather a hanger-on of my mother’s,”
said Stringham. “Said to be very bright. He
certainly gets about.”
    “And Sir Magnus Donners?”
    “He was in the Government during the
war.”
    “What else?”
    “He is always trying to get in with my
mother, too.”
    I had the impression that Stringham was
himself quite interested in Bill Truscott, who
certainly suggested the existence of an exciting
world from which one was at present excluded.
We strolled on through the empty streets
towards Stringham’s college. The air was damp
and warm. At the top of the stairs, the sound of
voices came from the sitting-room. Stringham
paused at the door.
    “Somebody has got in,” he said. “I hope it is
not the Boys’ Club man again.”
    He stood for a moment and listened; then
he opened the door. There was a general
impression of very light grey flannel suits and
striped ties, which resolved itself into three
figures, sitting smoking, one of whom was Peter
Templer.
    “Peter.”
    “Bob Duport and Jimmy Brent,” said Peter,
nodding towards the other two. “We thought
we would pay a call, to see how your education
was getting along.”
    He was looking well: perhaps a shade fatter
in the face than when I had last seen him; and,
having now reached the age for which Nature
had, as it were, intended him, he was beginning
to lose the look of a schoolboy dressed as a
grown man. I should have known Duport and
Brent anywhere as acquaintances of Peter’s.
They had that indefinable air of being up to no
good that always characterised Peter himself.
Both were a few years older than he; and I
vaguely remembered some story of Duport
having been involved in a motor accident,
notorious for some reason or other. That affair,
whatever it was, had taken place soon after he
had left school: during my own first year there.
He was built on similar lines to Peter, thin and
t a ll, with sandy hair, dressed in the same
uncompromising manner, though on the whole
less successfully. Brent was big and fat, with
spectacles that seemed to have been made with
abnormally small circles of glass. Both, it turned
out, were business friends, working in the City.
They accepted some of Stringham’s sherry, and
Brent, whose manners seemed on the whole
better than Duport’s, said: “What do they rush
you for this poison?”
     The sum was not revealed, because, almost
at the same moment, Duport, who was
examining The Pharisee’s rider, in one of the
pictures, that had followed Stringham to this
room, remarked: “I’ve never seen a jock on
land, or sea, sit a horse like that.”
     “Put your shirt on him when you do, Bob,”
said Peter. “You may recoup a bit on some of
those brilliant speculations of yours that are
always going to beat the book.”
     “How long are you staying?” asked
Stringham, before Duport had time to defend
his racing luck.
    “Going back to London after dinner.”
    I saw that any change that I might have
suspected of taking place in the relationship
between Templer and I Stringham had by now
crystallised. It was not that they no longer liked
one another, or even that they had ceased to
take pleasure in each other’s company, so much
as the fact that each had grown out of the
other’s habit of mind: and, in consequence,
manner of talking. Stringham had become
quieter than he had been at school; though he
was, at the same time, more than ever anxious
for something new to happen at comparatively
short intervals, in order that his attention
should be occupied, and depression kept at
arm’s length. Peter had changed less: merely
confirming his earlier attitude towards life. I did
not know to what extent, if at all, he was aware
of any difference in Stringham. He knew
Stringham well, and I could imagine him
describing – and laughing over – the warming-
up process that seemed to be required that
evening: a warming-up that never took place so
far as Stringham was concerned. I could,
equally, imagine Stringham laughing at the way
in which Peter was already shaping along the
lines that Stringham had himself so accurately
foretold.
    “We might all have dinner together,”
Stringham said. “That was the idea.”
    In the restaurant, Stringham and I talked to
Peter, rather fragmentarily: mainly on the
subject of Stringham’s stay in Kenya. Duport
and Brent grunted to each other from time to
time, or, occasionally, to Peter: no sense of
fusion quickening the party. Peter told us about
his car, recently bought second-hand, and
considered a bargain.
    “I must take you for a proper run in her,”
he said, “before we go back.”
    “Don’t forget I want to look in at the
Cabaret Club before we hit the hay,” said Brent.
    Duport said: “He’s got a girl there who owes
him some money.”
    “I wish she did,” said Brent: but without
elucidating further that cryptic aspiration.
    The Vauxhall was, in fact, clearly the
foundation of this unpremeditated visit. Peter
wanted to try the vehicle out. He continued to
assure us how cheap the price had been,
inviting admiration of its many good points.
This car was adapted for speed, having had the
windscreen removed; but it had all the
appearance of having passed through a good
many hands since the days of its first owner. It
certainly put Stringham’s two-seater in the
shade, and perhaps slightly irritated Stringham
on this account. Peter was immensely pleased
with the Vauxhall, the purchase of which
seemed in some way to have involved Brent. As
the evening wore on, Brent’s personality
became in other respects more determinable.
For example, he talked incessantly of women.
Peter and Duport treated this preoccupation as
something not to be taken at all seriously,
making no attempt to hide their concurrent
opinion that Brent’s attempts to make himself
agreeable to girls were entirely unsuccessful: all
of which Brent took in fairly good part. His
voice managed to be at once deep and squeaky;
and he spoke repeatedly of a woman called
Flora, who appeared in some manner to have
behaved badly to him. On the whole he was
undoubtedly preferable to Duport, whose
demeanour was aggressive and contradictious.
I was not surprised when Duport announced:
“Couldn’t stand my place at all. Got sent down
my first term. Still it looks worse here.”
    I enquired about Jean.
    “She’s all right,” Peter said. “In love with a
married man twice her age.”
    “Is that the sister I’m after?” asked Duport.
“That’s the one.”
    Towards the end of the meal, things
improved a little; though Stringham and I
seemed now to know Templer on an entirely
different footing from that of the past. Finally, I
felt even glad that Duport and Brent had
increased the numbers of the party, because
their presence alleviated, if it did not conceal,
the change that had taken place. Peter was still
anxious that we should see how fast the car
would travel on a piece of open road, and he
promised to deliver us back by midnight; so,
after dinner was finished, we agreed to go with
him. Stringham and I climbed into the back of
the Vauxhall with Duport, not through choice,
but because there was more room for everyone
if Brent occupied the seat beside the driver. We
moved off sharply in the direction of
unfrequented roads. I lay back, wishing the
seat had been roomy enough to allow sleep.
Duport smoked sullenly: Stringham, on the
other side of me, was silent: Brent had returned
to the subject of Flora, though without receiving
much outward sympathy from Peter. We had
reached the outskirts of the town, and the car
was gathering speed, when – without clearly
taking in the meaning of the words – I heard
Brent say: “Let’s pick up those two pieces.”
    I was scarcely aware that Peter had slowed
down, when we stopped with a jerk by the
kerb, where, beside a pillar-box at the corner of
a side road, two girls were standing. They were
w e a r ing flowered dresses, blue and pink
respectively, with hats of the same material.
Their faces were those of a couple of Dutch
dolls. Brent, from the front seat, twisted himself
round towards them.
    “Would you like to come for half an hour’s
drive?” he asked, in his unattractive voice, high
and oily. The girls raised no difficulty whatever
about falling in with this suggestion. There was
not even any giggling to speak of. They jumped
in immediately, one of them sitting in front, on
Brent’s knee; the other joining the three of us
at the back, where there was already little
enough room to spare. They answered to the
names of Pauline and Ena. Ena sat sideways,
mainly on Duport, but with her legs stretched
across my own knees: her feet, in tight high-
heeled shoes, on Stringham’s lap. This was a
situation similar to many I had heard
described,      though      never       previously
experienced. In spite of its comparative
discomfort, I could not help feeling interest –
and some slight excitement – to see how
matters       would develop. Stringham was
obviously not very pleased by the additional
company, which left him without the doubtful
advantage of any substantial share in either of
the girls; but he made the best of things, even
attempting some show of pinching Ena’s ankles.
Neither of the girls had much conversation.
However, they began to squeal a little when the
car arrived on a more open piece of road, and
the engine gathered speed.
    “You must admit it was a good buy,”
shouted Peter, as we did about seventy-five or
eighty.
    “All the same we might be returning soon,”
said Stringham. “My physician is insistent that
I should not stay up late after my riding
accident – especially with anyone, or part of
anyone, on my knee.”
    “We ought to be getting back, too,” said
Duport, freeing himself, apparently dissatisfied,
from Ena’s long embrace. “Otherwise it will be
tomorrow before we get to London.”
    “All right,” said Peter,” we will turn at the
next crossroads.”
    It was on the homeward journey, after
making this turn, that the mishap occurred.
Peter was not driving specially fast, but the
road, which was slippery from rain fallen earlier
in the evening, took two hairpin bends; and, as
we reached the second of these, some kind of
upheaval took place within the car. No one
afterwards could explain exactly what
happened, though the accepted supposition was
that Brent, engaged in kissing Pauline, had
disturbed her susceptibilities in some manner,
so that she had drawn herself unexpectedly
away from him; and, in his effort to maintain
their equilibrium, Brent had thrust her against
Peter’s elbow, in such a way that her head
obscured the view. That, at least, was one of
t h e main theories afterwards propounded.
Whatever the root of the trouble, the
memorable consequence was that Peter – in
order to avoid a large elm tree – drove into the
ditch: where the car stopped abruptly, making
a really horrible sound like a dying monster;
remaining stuck at an angle of forty-five
degrees to the road.
    This was an unpleasant surprise for
everyone. The girls could not have made more
noise if they had been having their throats cut.
Brent, too, swore loudly, in his almost falsetto
voice, natural or assumed to meet the
conditions of the moment; though, as it
happened, he and Pauline, perhaps owing to
their extreme proximity to each other, were
the only two members of the party who, when
we had at last all succeeded in making our way
out of the Vauxhall, turned out to be quite
unhurt. Stringham was kicked in the face by
Ena, who also managed to give Duport a black-
eye by concussion between the back of her
head and his forehead. Peter bruised his
knuckles against the handle of the door. Ena
complained of a broken arm from the violence
with which Duport had seized her as the car
went over the edge. My own injuries were no
worse than a sharp blow on the nose from Ena’s
knee. However, we were all shaken up more
than a little; and, as one of the wheels had
buckled, the car clearly could not be driven
back that night. There had been some difficulty
in getting out of the ditch, and, as I stepped up
on to the road, I felt the first drop of rain. Now
it began to pour. This was an exceedingly
inconvenient occurrence from everyone’s point
of view. Probably Stringham and I were in the
most awkward position, as there seemed no
prospect of either of us reaching college by the
required hour; and it would not be easy to
convince the authorities that nothing of which
they might disapprove had taken place to make
us late: or even to keep us out all night, if things
should turn out so badly. The girls were,
presumably, accustomed to late hours if they
were in the habit of accepting lifts at that time
o f night; but for them, too, this was an
uncomfortable situation. Such recrimination
that took place was about equally divided
between Peter’s two friends and Ena and
P auline : although I knew that, in fact,
Stringham was far the angriest person present.
Rain now began to fall in sheets. We moved in a
body towards the elm tree.
    “Of all the bloody silly things to do,” said
Brent. “You might have killed the lot of us.”
    “I might easily,” said Peter, who was always
well equipped for dealing with friends of Brent’s
kind. “I wonder I didn’t with a lout like you in
the boat. Haven’t you ever had a girl sitting on
your knee before, that you have to heave her
right across the car, just because there is a
slight bump in the road?”
    “What did you want to get a lot of girls in
the car for, anyway?” asked Duport, who was
holding a rolled-up handkerchief to his eye. “If
you weren’t capable of steering?”
    “I didn’t ask for them.”
    “You ought to have some driving lessons.”
    Peter replied with a reference to the time
when Duport was alleged to have collided with a
lamp-post at Henley; and they both went on
like this for some minutes. Pauline and Ena, the
former of whom was crying, also made a good
deal of noise, while they lamented the difficulty
of getting home, certainly an insoluble problem
as matters stood.
    “How far out are we?” Stringham asked,
“and what is the time?”
    The hour was a quarter-past eleven; the
general view, that we had come about a dozen
miles. There was a chance that a car might
pass, but we were a large party to be
accommodated. In any case, there was no sign
of a car. Stringham said: “We had better make
plans for camping out. Brent, you look good at
manual labour – will you set to work and
construct a palisade?”
    “You didn’t ought to have brought us here,”
said Pauline.
    Ena, still complaining of a torn stocking, and
bruises on her arm, cried into her handbag.
Peter and Duport moved round the car, pulling
and pushing its outer surface, or opening the
bonnet to inspect the engine. Brent sat panting
to himself on the bank.
    Peter said: “The rain seems to be stopping.
We may as well walk in the right direction.
There is no point in staying here.”
    There was not much enthusiasm for this
suggestion; and, when attempted, the heel
came off one of Ena’s shoes, in any case not
adapted to a twelve-mile march.
    “Can’t we change the wheel?” said Duport.
We struggled with the problem of the wheel
from different angles of approach. It was
impossible to wind the jack into position under
the axle. We only managed to embed the car
more firmly than ever in the side of the ditch.
While we were engaged in these labours, rain
began to fall again, a steady, soaking downpour.
Once more we retired to the tree, and waited
for the shower to clear.
    “What a bloody silly thing to do,” said
Duport.
    “Almost as brilliant as the time you fell into
the orchestra on Boat-Race Night.”
    Stringham said: “For my part, I am now in a
perfect condition to be received into one of
those oriental religions whose only tenet is
complete submission to Fate.”
    He joined Brent on the bank, and sat with
his head in his hands. A minute or two after
this, the miracle happened.
    There was a grinding noise farther up the
road, and the glare of powerful headlights
appeared. It was a bus. Brent, with surprising
agility for so fat a man, jumped up from where
he was sitting, and ran out into the centre of the
road, holding his arms wide apart as if in
supplication. He was followed by Duport,
apparently shaking his fist. I felt little interest
in possible danger of their being run over: only
a great relief that the bus must in any case
come to a standstill, whether they were killed
or not.
     Stringham said: “What did I foretell?
Kismet. It is the Wheel.”
     The bus stopped some yards short of Brent.
We all clambered up the steps. Inside, the seats
were almost empty, and no one seemed to
realise from what untold trouble we had all
been rescued. The girls now recovered quickly,
and were even anxious to make an assignation
for another night. They were, however, both
set down (with no more than a promise from
Brent that he would look them up if again in
that neighbourhood) at a point not far from the
pillar-box from which they had embarked on
that unlucky drive. We reached the centre of
the town: Templer, Brent, and Duport still
quarrelling among themselves about which
hotel they should patronise, and arguing as to
whether or not it was worth ringing up a garage
t h a t night to arrange for the repair of the
Vauxhall. This discussion was still in progress
when we left the bus. Stringham and I said
good night to them.
     “I’m sorry to have landed you in all this,”
Peter said.
     “You must come for a drive with us
sometime,” said Stringham. “Anyway, we’ll
meet soon.”
     But I knew that they would not meet soon;
and that this was a final parting. Peter, I think,
knew this too. A crescent moon came from
behind clouds. The others disappeared from
sight. Stringham said: “What a jolly evening,
and what nice friends Peter makes.” The clocks
were striking midnight at different places all
over the town as I stepped through the door of
my college. The rain had cleared. Moonlight
gave the grass and towers an air of unreality, as
if all would be removed in the morning to make
way for another scene. My coat hung on me,
shapeless and soggy, the damp working down
through the cloth to my shoulders.

                        *

This incident with Templer’s car had two
results, so far as Stringham was concerned: it
brought an end to his friendship with Peter, and
it immensely strengthened his desire to go
down as soon as possible from the university.
In fact, he was now unwilling even to consider
the possibility of staying in residence long
enough to take a degree. It was one of those
partings of the ways that happen throughout
life: in this case, foretold by Peter himself. No
doubt Peter, too, had guessed that something
had ended, and that his prophecy had come
true, while the rain dripped down on all of us,
through the branches of that big elm, while we
stood in the shadows of the ditch regarding the
stranded Vauxhall.
     When I say that their friendship came to an
end, I do not mean that Stringham no longer
spoke of Templer; nor that, when he talked of
him, it was with dislike: nor even, in a sense,
with disapproval. On the contrary, he used to
refer to Peter as frequently as he had done in
the past; and the story of the drive, the crash,
Ena and Pauline, Brent and Duport, was
embroidered by him until it became a kind of
epic of discomfort and embarrassment: at the
same time, something immensely funny in the
light of Peter’s chosen manner of life.
Nevertheless, there could be no doubt
whatever that metamorphosis had taken place;
and, sometimes, it was almost as if Stringham
were speaking of a friend who had died, or gone
beyond the sea to a place from which he would
never return. Once he said: “How appalling
Peter will be in fifteen years’ time;” and he
never spoke, as formerly he had done, of
arranging a meeting between the three of us in
London.
     I was even aware that, in an infinitely lesser
degree, I could not avoid being unfavourably
included by Stringham in this reorientation
which, almost necessarily, affected anyone who
was at once a friend of Peter’s and a fellow
undergraduate, fated to remain up for at least
t h r e e years: both characteristics reminding
Stringham of sides of life from which he was
determined to cut away. Besides, for my own
part I shared none of this sense of having seen
the last of Peter; though even I had to admit
t hat I did not care for the idea of spending
much         of my   time with his present
acquaintances, if Brent and Duport were typical
representatives of his London circle. The extent
t o which Stringham had resolved to settle his
own career was brought home to me one
morning, through the unexpected agency of
Quiggin, next to whom I found myself sitting,
when attending one of Brightman’s lectures, at
which I had not been appearing so regularly as
perhaps I should.
    On this occasion Quiggin walked back with
me towards my college, though without
relaxing the harsh exterior he had displayed
when we had first met at Sillery’s. He seemed
chiefly concerned to find out more about Mark
Members.
    “Where does his stuff appear?” he asked.
    “What stuff?”
    “His poems have been published, haven’t
they? Why ‘Public’?” said Quiggin. “Why
‘Public’ School Verse? Why not just ‘School
Verse’?”
    I was unable to answer that one; and
suggested that such a title must for some
reason have have appealed to the editors, or
publisher, of the volume.
    “It is not as if they were ‘public’ schools,”
said Quiggin. “They could not be less ‘public’.”
    I had heard this objection voiced before, and
could only reply that such schools had to have a
name of some sort. Quiggin stopped, stuck his
hands into his pockets (he was still wearing his
black suit) and poked his head forward. He
looked thin and unhealthy: undernourished,
perhaps. “Have you got a copy?” he asked.
    “Yes.”
    “Can I borrow it?”
    “All right.”
    “Now?”
    “If you like to come with me.”
    We undertook the rest of the journey to my
rooms in silence. Arrived there, Quiggin glanced
around at the furnishings, as if he did not rate
very highly the value of the objects provided by
the college to sit, or lie, upon. They were,
indeed, shabby enough. Standing by the
bookcase, he took out the copy of Public School
Verse, which he had lighted upon immediately,
and began to run rapidly through the rest of the
books.
     “Do you know Members well?” he asked.
     “I’ve met him once, since we were at
Sillery’s.”
     This encounter with Members had been at a
luncheon      party given by Short, where
Members had much annoyed and mortified his
host by eating nearly all the strawberries
before the meal began. In addition, he had not
spoken at all during luncheon, leaving before
the coffee was served, on the grounds that he
had to play the gramophone to himself for half
an hour every afternoon; and that, unless he
withdrew at once, he would not have time for
his music owing to a later engagement. Short,
for a mild man, had been quite cross. “I
understand that Members is a coming poet,”
said Quiggin.
     I agreed that I r o n Aspidistra showed
considerable promise. Quiggin gloomily turned
the pages of the collection. He said: “I’d be glad
to meet Members again.”
     It was on the tip of my tongue to answer
that he was almost certain to do this, sooner or
later, if their homes were so close; but, as
Quiggin evidently meant there and then, rather
than in the vacation, I thought it wiser to leave
the remark unmade. I promised to let him
know if a suitable occasion should arise, such as
M e mbe r s visiting my rooms, though that
seemed improbable after his behaviour at
Short’s luncheon party.
    “Can I take T h e G re e n Ha t t oo?” asked
Quiggin.
    “Don’t lose it.”
    “It is all about fashionable life, isn’t it?”
    “Well, yes.”
    I had myself not yet fully digested the
subject matter of The Green Hat, a novel that I
felt painted, on the whole, a sympathetic
picture of what London had to offer: though
much of the life it described was still obscure to
me. I was surprised at Quiggin asking for it. He
went on: “In that case I do not expect that I
shall like it. I hate anything superficial. But I
will take the book and look at it, and tell you
what I think of the writing.”
    “Do.”
     “I suppose that it depicts the kind of world
that your friend Stringham will enter when he
joins Donners-Brebner,” said Quiggin, as he
continued to inspect the book shelf.
     “How do you mean?”
     “Well you must have heard that he has
taken the job that Truscott was talking about at
Sillery’s. Surely he has told you that?”
     “What, with Sir Magnus Donners?” It was
no use pretending that I knew something of this
already. I was, indeed, so surprised that only
after Quiggin had gone did I begin to feel
annoyance.
     “I should have thought he would have told
you,” said Quiggin.
     “Where did you hear this?”
     “At     Sillery’s, of course. Sillery says
Stringham is just the man.”
     “He probably is.”
     “Of course,” said Quiggin, “I knew at once
there would be no chance of Truscott thinking
o f m e . Not good enough, by any manner of
means, I suppose.”
     “Would you have liked the job?”
    I did not know what else to say: the idea of
Quiggin being the sort of man Truscott was
looking for seeming to me so grotesque.
    Quiggin did not bother to reply to this
question. He merely repeated, with a sniff: “Not
good enough by a long chalk,” adding: “You
might come and see me some time in my
college, if you can find the way to it. You won’t
get any priceless port, or anything like that.”
    I said that I was not particularly fond of
port; and began to give an account of my likes
and dislikes in the matter of wine, which
Quiggin, with what I now see as excusable
impatience, cut short by saying: “I live very
quietly. I can’t afford to do otherwise.”
    “Neither can I.”
    Quiggin did not answer. He gave me a look
of great contempt; as I supposed, for venturing,
even by implication, to draw a parallel between
a lack of affluence that might, literally, affect
my purchase of rare vintages, and a figure of
speech intended delicately to convey his own
dire want for the bare necessities of life. He
remained silent for several seconds, as if trying
to make up his mind whether he could ever
bring himself to speak to me again; and then
said gruffly: “I’ve got to go now.”
    As he went off, all hunched up on one side
with Public School Verse and The Green Hat
under his arm, I felt rather ashamed of myself
for having made such a thoughtless remark.
However, I soon forgot about this, at the time,
i n recalling the news I had learnt about
Stringham, which I wanted to verify as soon as
possible. In general, however, I continued to
feel an interest in Quiggin, and the way he
lived. He had something of the angry solitude of
spirit that held my attention in Widmerpool.
    Stringham, when I next saw him, seemed
surprised at the importance with which I
invested his decision.
    “I thought I’d told you,” he said. “As a
matter of fact it isn’t finally fixed yet. What
awful cheek of your friend Quiggin, if I may say
so.”
    “What do you think of him?”
    “The man is a closed book to me,”
Stringham said. “And one that I confess I have
little temptation to open. Bill Truscott, on the
other hand, was rather impressed.”
     “With Quiggin?”
     “Curiously enough.”
     “Will you work with Truscott?”
     “I shall be the other personal secretary.”
     “Did Sillery put up the suggestion?”
     “He is very keen on it. He agrees one’s
family will have to be consulted.”
     “Will your family raise difficulties?”
     “For once,” said Stringham, “I don’t think
they will. My mother will at last see hopes of
getting me settled in life. Buster – most
mistakenly – will suppose this to be the first
step on the stair to a seat on the Donners-
Brebner Board. My father will be filled with
frank astonishment that I should be proving
myself capable of earning a living in any
capacity whatsoever.”
     “What about a degree?”
     “Bill Truscott reports Sir Magnus as
demanding who the hell wants a degree these
days; and saying all he needs is men who know
the world, and can act and think quickly.”
     “Strong stuff.”
     “I suppose I can take lessons from Bill.”
     “Then you won’t come up next term?”
     “Not if I can avoid it.”
     Sillery’s part in this matter was certainly of
interest. He might have been expected – as
Stringham himself agreed – to encourage as
many undergraduates as possible to remain, for
as long as possible, within his immediate range.
L a t e r on, however, I began to understand
something of his reasons for recommending this
course.        If Stringham remained at the
university, it was probable that he would fall
under influences other than – and alien to –
Sillery’s. Even if he remained Sillery’s man, he
was obviously a person who might easily get
involved in some scrape for which Sillery (if too
insistent on taking Stringham under his wing)
might be held in some degree answerable.
Placed in a key position in Donners-Brebner –
largely due to Sillery’s own recommendation –
Stringham could not only supply news of that
large concern, but could also keep an eye on
Sillery’s other man, Truscott. In due course
Sillery would no doubt find himself in a position
to renew acquaintance in most satisfactory
conditions. In short, power               without
responsibility, could hardly be offered to Sillery,
within this limited sphere, upon cheaper terms.
Such a series of crude images would scarcely
have suggested themselves in quite this
manner to Sillery’s mind – still less did I see
them myself in any such clarity – but the
apparent paradox of why Sillery threw in his
weight on the side of Stringham’s going-down
became in due course comparatively plain to
me.
     “Anyway,” said Stringham, “you’ll be in
London yourself soon.”
     “I suppose so.”
     “Then we’ll have some fun.”
     Somehow, I felt doubts about this. Life no
longer seemed to present quite the same
uncomplicated façade as at a time when
dodging Le Bas and shirking football had been
cardinal requirements to make the day
tolerable. Although I might not feel, with
Stringham, that Peter Templer was gone for
good, Peter certainly seemed now to inhabit a
world that offered limited attractions. The
sphere towards which Stringham seemed to be
heading, little as I knew of it, was scarcely more
tempting to me. Perhaps Widmerpool had been
right in advocating a more serious attitude of
mind towards the problem of the future. I
thought over some of the remarks he had made
on this subject while we had both been staying
at La Grenadière.
    As it turned out, Mrs. Foxe did not show the
complacence Stringham had expected in
agreeing, at once, that he should cease to be a
member of the university. On the contrary, she
wrote to say that she thought him too young to
spend all his time in London; even going so far
as to add that she had no desire for him to turn
into “something like Bill Truscott:” of whom she
h a d always been supposed to approve.
However, this was an obstacle not entirely
unforeseen; in spite of Stringham’s earlier hope
that his mother might decide on the spur of the
moment that a job was the best possible thing
for him.
    “Of course that’s Buster,” he said, when he
spoke of the letter.
    I was not sure that he was right. The tone of
his mother’s remarks did not at all suggest
arguments put forward at second-hand. They
sounded much more like her own opinions.
Stringham reasserted his case. The end of it
was that she decided to come and talk things
over.
    “Really rather good of her,” said Stringham.
“You can imagine how busy she must be at this
time of year.”
    “Do you think you will persuade her?”
    “I’m going to rope in Sillery.”
    “Take her to see him?”
    “Have him to lunch. Will you come and play
for my side?”
    “I can’t play for your side, if I don’t want
you to go down.”
    “Well, just keep the ring then.”
    This was about the stage when I began to
become dimly conscious of what Short was
trying to convey when he spoke of Sillery’s
influence, and his intrigues; although, as far as
it went, a parent’s discussion of her son’s future
with a don still seemed natural enough. Sillery,
I thought, was like Tiresias: for, although
predominantly male, for example, in outward
appearance, he seemed to have the seer’s
power of assuming female character if required.
With Truscott, for instance, he would behave
like an affectionate aunt; while his perennial
quarrel with Brightman – to take another
instance of his activities – was often conducted
with a mixture of bluntness and self-control
that certainly could not be thought at all like a
woman’s row with a man: or even with another
woman; though, at the same time, it was a
dispute that admittedly transcended somehow
a difference of opinion between two men.
Certainly Sillery had no dislike for the company
of women in the way of ordinary social life,
provided they made no personal demands on
him. I was anxious to see how he would deal
with Mrs. Foxe.
    Meanwhile, I continued occasionally to see
something of Quiggin, although I came no
nearer to deciding which of the various views
held about him were true. He was like
Widmerpool, as I have said, in his complete
absorption in his own activities, and also in his
ambition. Unlike Widmerpool, he made no
parade of his aspirations, on the contrary,
keeping as secret as possible his appetite for
getting on in life, so that even when I became
aware of the purposeful way in which he set
about obtaining what he wanted, I could never
be sure where precisely his desires lay. He used
to complain of the standard of tutoring, or how
few useful lectures were available, and at times
he liked to discuss his work in great detail. In
fact I thought, at first, that he worked far
harder than most of the men I knew. Later I
came to doubt this, finding that Quiggin’s work
w a s something to be discussed rather than
tackled, and that what he really enjoyed was
drinking cups of coffee at odd times of day. He
had another characteristic with which I became
in due course familiar: he was keen on meeting
people he considered important, and
surprisingly successful in impressing persons –
as he seemed to have impressed Truscott –
who might have been reasonably expected to
take amiss his manner and appearance.
    The subject of Quiggin came up at one of
those luncheons that Short, who had a
comfortable allowance, gave periodically. Mark
Members, in spite of his behaviour on the
earlier occasion, was again of the party
(because Short regarded him as intellectually
“sound”); though Brightman was the guest of
honour this time. Two undergraduates, called
respectiv ely Smethwyck and Humble, were
there, and perhaps others. Short was inclined to
become sentimental after he had eaten and
drunk a fairly large amount in the middle of the
day, and he had remarked: “Quiggin must find
it hard to make two ends meet up here. He told
me his father used to work on the railway line
outside some Midland town.”
    “Not a word of truth,” said Brightman, who
was the only don present. “Quiggin is in my
college. I went into the whole question of his
financial position when he came up. He has
certainly no less money than the average –
probably more with his scholarships.”
    “ What do e s h i s father do then, Harold?”
asked Short, who was quite used to being
contradicted by Brightman; and, indeed, by
almost everyone else in the university.
    “Deceased.”
    “But what did he do?”
    “A builder – keen on municipal politics. So
keen, he nearly landed in jail. He got off on
appeal.”
    Brightman could not help smiling to himself
at the ease with which he could dispose of
Short.
    “But he may have worked on the railway
line all the same.”
    “The only work Quiggin the Elder ever did
on the railway line,” said Brightman, becoming
more assertive at encountering argument, “was
probably to travel without a ticket.”
    “But that doesn’t prove that his son has got
any money,” said Humble, who did not care for
Brightman.
    “He was left a competence,” Brightman said.
“Quiggin lives with his mother, who is a town
councillor. Isn’t that true, Mark?”
    A more vindictive man than Short might
have been suspected of having raised the
subject of Quiggin primarily to punish Members
for his former attack on the strawberries; but
Short was far too good-natured ever to have
thought of such a revenge. Besides, he would
never have considered baiting anyone whom he
admired on intellectual grounds. Brightman, on
the other hand, had no such scruples, and he
went on to say: “Come on, Mark. Let’s hear
your account of Quiggin. You are neighbours,
according to Sillers.”
    Members must have seen that there was no
way of avoiding the subject. Shaking his hair
out of his eyes, he said: “There is a disused
railway-siding that was turned into allotments.
He probably worked there. It adjoins one of the
residential suburbs.”
    There was a general laugh at this answer,
which was certainly a neat way of settling the
questions of both Quiggin and Brightman
himself, so far as Members was concerned.
Smethwyck began to talk of a play he had seen
in London, and conversation took a new course.
However, the feelings of self-reproach that
contact with Quiggin, or discussions about him,
commonly aroused in me were not entirely set
at rest by this description of his circumstances.
Brightman’s information was notoriously
unreliable: and Members’s words had clearly
been actuated by personal dislike. The work on
the railway line might certainly have been of a
comparatively recreational nature: that had to
be admitted in the light of Mark Members’s
knowledge of the locality; but, even were this
delineation of the background true, that would
not prevent Quiggin from finding in his life
some element chronically painful to him. Even
though he might exaggerate to himself, and to
others, his lack of means in relation to the
financial circumstances of his contemporaries,
this in itself pointed to a need for other – and
deeply felt – discontents. It was possibly that,
in the eyes of Quiggin, money represented
some element in which he knew himself
deficient: rather in the same way that
Widmerpool, when he wanted to criticise
Stringham, said that he had too much money:
no doubt in truth envying the possession of
assets that were, in fact, not material ones. It
was some similar course of speculation that
seemed to give shape to Quiggin’s character
and outward behaviour.
    Short’s luncheon took place the day before I
was to meet Mrs. Foxe again, and I thought
over the question of Quiggin on my way to
Stringham’s rooms.
    “This may be rather a ghastly meal,”
Stringham said, while we waited for his mother,
and Sillery, to arrive.
    Sillery appeared first. He had cleaned
himself up a little for the occasion, trimmed his
moustache at the corners, and exchanged his
usual blue bow for a black silk tie with white
spots. Stringham offered him sherry, which was
refused. Like many persons more interested in
power than sensual enjoyment, Sillery touched
no strong drink. Prowling about the room for a
minute or two, he glanced at the invitations on
the mantelpiece: a London dance or two, and
some undergraduate parties. He found nothing
there that appeared to interest him, because he
turned, and, stepping between Stringham and
myself, took each of us by an arm, resting his
weight slightly.
     “I hear you have been seeing something of
Brother Quiggin,” he said to me.
     “We met at one of Brightman’s lectures,
Sillers.”
     “You both go to Brightman’s lectures, do
you?” said Sillery. “I hope they are being
decently attended,”
     “Moderate.”
     “Mostly women, I fear.”
     “A sprinkling of men.”
     “I heard they were getting quite painfully
empty. It’s a pity, because Brightman is such
an able fellow. He won golden opinions as a
young man,” said Sillery.
     “But tell me, how do you find Brother
Quiggin?”
     I hardly knew what to say. However, Sillery
seemed to require no answer. He said: “Brother
Quiggin is an able young man, too. We must not
forget that.”
     Stringham did not seem much in the mood
for Sillery. He moved away towards the
window. A gramophone was playing in the
rooms above. Outside, the weather was hot and
rather stuffy.
    “I hope my mother is not going to be really
desperately late,” he said.
    We waited. Sillery began to describe a
walking tour he had once taken in Sicily with
t w o friends, one of whom had risen to be
Postmaster-General: the other, dead in his
twenties, having shown promise of even higher
things. He was in the middle of an anecdote
about an amusing experience they had had with
a German professor in a church at Syracuse,
when there was a step on the stairs outside.
Stringham went to the door, and out on to the
landing. I heard him say: “Why, hallo, Tuffy.
Only you?”
    Miss Weedon’s reply was not audible within
the room. She came in a moment later, looking
much the same as when I had seen her in
London. Stringham followed. “My mother is
awfully sorry, Sillers, but she could not get
away at the last moment,” he said. “Miss
Weedon very sweetly motored all the way here,
in order that we should not have a vacant place
at the table.”
    Sillery did not take this news at all well.
There could be no doubt that he was deeply
disappointed at Mrs. Foxe’s defection; and that
he did not feel Miss Weedon to be, in any way,
an adequate substitute for Stringham’s mother.
We settled down to a meal that showed no
outward prospect of being particularly
enjoyable. Stringham himself did not appear in
the least surprised at this miscarriage of plans.
He was evidently pleased to see Miss Weedon,
who, of the two of them, seemed the more
worried that a discussion regarding Stringham’s
future would have to be postponed. Sillery
decided that the first step was to establish his
own position in Miss Weedon’s eyes before, as
he no doubt intended, exploring her own
possibilities for exploitation.
    “Salmon,” he remarked. “Always makes me
think of Mr. Gladstone.”
    “Have some, all the same,” said Stringham.
“I hope it’s fresh.”
    “Did you arrange all this lunch yourself?”
asked Miss Weedon, before Sillery could
proceed further with his story. “How wonderful
of you. You know your mother was really
distressed that she couldn’t come.”
    “The boys were at choir-practice when I
passed this way,” said Sillery, determined that
he should enter the conversation on his own
terms. “They were trying over that bit from
The Messiah” – he hummed distantly, and beat
time with his fork —” you know, those
children’s voices made me mighty sad.”
    “Charles used to have a nice voice, didn’t
you?” said Miss Weedon: plainly more as a
tribute to Stringham’s completeness of
personality, rather than because the matter
could be thought to be of any great musical
interest.
    “I really might have earned my living that
way, if it hadn’t broken,” said Stringham. “I
should especially have enjoyed singing in the
street. Perhaps I shall come to it yet.”
    “There’s been a terrible to-do about the
way you earn your living,” said Miss Weedon.
“Buster doesn’t at all like the idea of your living
in London.”
    Sillery showed interest in this remark, in
spite of his evident dissatisfaction at the
manner in which Miss Weedon treated him. He
seemed unable to decide upon her precise
status in the household: which was, indeed, one
not easy to assess. It was equally hard to guess
what she knew, or thought, of Sillery; whether
she appreciated the extent of his experience in
such situations as that which had arisen in
regard to Stringham. Sitting opposite him, she
seemed to have become firmer and more
masculine; while Sillery himself, more than
ever, took the shape of a wizard or shaman,
equipped to resist either man or woman from a
bisexual vantage.
    This ineffective situation might have
continued throughout Miss Weedon’s visit, if
Moffet – about whom a word should be said –
had not handed Stringham a telegram, when he
brought the next course. Moffet, a tall, gloomy
man, on account of his general demeanour,
which was certainly oppressive enough, had in
some degree contributed to Stringham’s dislike
for university life. Stringham used to call Moffet
“the murderer,” not on account of anything
outwardly disreputable in his appearance,
w h i c h might have been that of some
ecclesiastical dignitary, but because of what
Stringham named “the cold cruelty of Moffet’s
eye.” If Moffet decided, for one reason or
another, that an undergraduate on his staircase
was worth cultivating, there was something
sacerdotal about the precision with which he
never left him free from attentions; as if the
victim must be converted, come what may, to
Moffet’s doctrines. Moffet had at first sight
made up his mind that Stringham was one to be
brought under his sway.
    One of Moffet’s tenets was in connection
with the manner in which Stringham arranged
several ivory elephants along the top of his
mantelpiece. Stringham liked the elephants to
follow each other in column: Moffet preferred
them to face the room in line. I had been
present, on one occasion, when Moffet, having
just finished “doing the room,” had disappeared
from it. Stringham walked over to the fireplace,
where the elephants stood with their trunks in
line, and turned them sideways. As he
completed this rearrangement, Moffet came in
once more through the door. Stringham had the
last elephant in his hand. Moffet stared across
at him forbiddingly.
    “I am afraid I do not arrange ornaments
very well, sir,” said Moffet.
    “Just a whim of mine regarding elephants.”
    “I will try to remember, sir,” said Moffet.
“They take a powerful lot of dusting.”
    He retired again, adding: “Thank you, sir,”
as he closed the door. The incident disturbed
Stringham. “Now I shall have to go down,” he
said.
    However, Moffet was in an excellent mood
at having an opportunity to wait on Sillery, of
whom, for some reason, he approved more than
of most dons. He brought in the telegram with a
flourish. The message was from Stringham’s
mother: she would be arriving, after all: Buster
was driving her down. At this, Sillery cheered
up at once; and Miss Weedon, too, saw hope
t h a t negotiations might now take place.
Stringham himself seemed as indifferent as
before.
    “If Buster is coming,” he said, “he will
certainly queer the pitch.”
    “I am looking forward to meeting Buster,”
said Sillery, smiling straight across the table to
Miss Weedon. “I think I shall persuade him to
our point of view.”
    He put the tips of his fingers together. Miss
Weedon looked a little surprised at this whole-
hearted way in which Sillery offered himself as
an ally. She had perhaps assumed that, as a
don, he would inevitably attempt to prevent
Stringham from going down. She said:
“Commander Foxe’s great regret is that he
never went to the university.”
    I did not know whether this remark was
intended to excuse Buster, or to suggest to
Sillery a line of attack.
    “No doubt he acquired a very useful
education in a different sphere,” said Sillery. “I
have made enquiries, and find that we have
many friends in common. Bill Truscott, for
example.”
     Miss Weedon did not feel equally
enthusiastic about Bill Truscott. I wondered if
they had crossed swords.
     “Mr. Truscott has been in the house a lot
lately,” she said, guardedly.
     “Bill knows the situation perfectly,” said
Sillery. “It would be a great advantage to work
in harness with him.” All Miss Weedon was
prepared to admit was the statement that “Mr.
Truscott is always very kind.” However,
Sillery’s changed mood much improved the
atmosphere; luncheon continuing with less
sense of strain.
     Mrs. Foxe and Buster arrived just as Moffet
was clearing the table. They brought with them
a hamper; caviare, grapes, a bottle of
champagne. The effect of their entrance was
immediate. Sillery and Miss Weedon at once
abjured a great proportion of the
hermaphroditic humours assumed by each of
them for the purpose of more convenient
association with the other: Miss Weedon
relapsing into her normal role of attendance on
Mrs. Foxe: Sillery steering himself more
decidedly towards the part of eccentric
professor, and away from the comparatively
straightforward manner in which he had been
discussing Stringham’s affairs. This was the
first time I had seen Mrs. Foxe and Buster
together. They made an unusual couple. This
was not due to the fact that she was a few years
the elder of the two, which was scarcely
noticeable, because Buster, though he had lost
some of his look of anxiety, was distinctly
fatter, and less juvenile in appearance, than he
had seemed in London a year or more before.
He was still dressed with care, and appeared in
a more amenable temper than at our earlier
meeting.
    “We brought some grub down,” he said to
Stringham, putting the hamper on a chair; and,
turning to me, he remarked: “I think one can
always use caviare, don’t you?”
    It was clear that he accepted the fact that in
the presence of his wife he was a subordinate
figure, wherever he might rank away from her.
Mrs. Foxe’s ownership of Buster seemed
complete when they were in a room together.
From time to time she would glance at him as if
to make sure that he were behaving himself;
but her look was one of complete assurance
that a word from her would be sufficient to
quell even the smallest outbreak of conduct of a
kind of which she might disapprove. I found
out, much later, that the circumstances of their
marriage had been, so far as they went,
respectable enough; and that nothing could
have been farther from the truth than
Widmerpool’s suggestion that her divorce had
been a particularly scandalous one. At that
time, however, I had not heard any of the
story; and I was still curious to know where she
and Buster had met, and what romantic climax
had been the cause of their going off together.
    Sillery now showed great activity. He
moved quickly forward to Mrs. Foxe, for a
moment or two engaging her in conversation
that      took    up the threads of their
acquaintanceship of years before. Then he
made for Buster, on whom he evidently
intended      to   concentrate      his    forces,
manoeuvring him to the far end of the room;
and, after a short while, taking his arm. Moffet
had come in to ask if more coffee was required.
He was in his element in this somewhat
confused scene. Mrs. Foxe and Buster, not yet
having lunched, some sort of a picnic was now
organised among the remnants of the meal just
consumed.
    Sillery must have made his point, whatever
it was, with Buster almost immediately,
because soon he led him back to the food,
assuring us that it was extraordinary that,
during his war work with the Y.M.C.A., they
had never met, though how this meeting could
possibly have happened he did not explain.
Whatever they had found in common was
satisfactory to Buster, too, since he laughed and
talked with Sillery as if he had known him for
years. I have sometimes wondered whether
Sillery made some specific offer on that
occasion: a useful business introduction, for
example, might have been dangled before
Buster, then, as I knew from Stringham,
contemplating retirement from the Navy. On
the whole it is probable that nothing more
concrete took place than that the two of them
were aware, as soon as they set eyes on one
another, of mutual sympathy: Sillery confining
himself to flattery, and perhaps allowing Buster
to hear the names of some of the more
im p r e s s iv e specimens in his collection.
Whatever the reason, Stringham’s fate was
settled in these first few minutes, because it
was then that Buster must have decided to
withdraw          opposition. How serious this
opposition was likely to be, if Sillery had not
stepped in, is another question hard to answer.
Buster might be in comparative subjection to
his wife, but he was not necessarily without
influence with her on that account. On the
contrary, his subjection was no doubt a source
of power to him in such matters. It was not
surprising that he was against Stringham going
down; his change of heart was much less to be
expected. However, by the time Mrs. Foxe
decided to leave, after scarcely any discussion
over the caviare, champagne and grapes (the
last of which Sillery consented to share), it was
agreed that Stringham should go down at the
end of the term. When he said good-bye, Sillery
assured Mrs. Foxe that he was always at her
service: when he took Buster’s hand he put his
own left hand over their combined grip, as if to
seal it: to Miss Weedon he was polite and
friendly, though less demonstrative. Moffet was
waiting on the stairs. Something in the dignity
of his bow must have moved Buster, because a
coin changed hands.

                       *

Although a letter from Uncle Giles was by no
means unknown, he did not write often; and
only when he wanted something done for him:
requiring details of an address he had lost, for
example, or transmitting an account of some
p r o j e c t in which he was commercially
interested at that moment and wished
recommended to all persons his relations might
come across. He possessed a neat, stiff, old-
fashioned handwriting, not at all suggestive of
vagaries of character. There was usually a card
from him at Christmas, undecorated, and very
small in size: sent out in plenty of time. When,
towards the end of the Michaelmas term, an
envelope arrived addressed in his angular hand,
I supposed at first that he had now taken to
dispatching these Christmas greetings more
than a month in advance. “I am staying in
London for some weeks,” he wrote, “and I
should like to see you one evening. After all, I
have only three nephews. I dine every night at
the Trouville Restaurant. Just drop in. It is
very simple, of course, but you get good value
for your money. We must take care of the
pennies, these days. Any night will do.” Sunny
Farebrother, I remembered, had made the
same remark about the pennies. The fact that I
might not be in a position to “drop in” to a
restaurant in London “any night” did not
appear to have struck my uncle, never very
good at grasping principles that might govern
other people’s lives and movements. His letter
was written from Harrods, so that there was no
means of sending an answer; and I made up my
mind that, even if I were to visit London – as I
was doing, so it happened, the following day, to
dine with Stringham – I should not spend the
evening at the Trouville Restaurant. Uncle
Giles did not state the reason for his wish to
meet me, which may have sprung from
completely        disinterested affection for a
member of his family not seen for some time. I
suspected, perhaps unjustly, that such was not
the motive; and, since at that age behaviour of
older people seems, more often than not,
entirely meaningless, I dismissed Uncle Giles’s
letter from my mind, as I now think, rather
inexcusably. I had not seen Stringham since the
summer, and had heard very little from him on
the subject of his job. For one reason or another
arrangements to meet had fallen through, and I
felt, instinctively, that he was passing into an
orbit where we should from now on see less of
each other. I was thinking about this subject
that afternoon, feeling disinclined for work,
watching the towers of the neighbouring
college, with the leaden sky beyond, when there
was a knock on the door.
    “Come in.”
    It was Le Bas.
    “I’ve been lunching with your Dean,” he
said. “He mentioned your name. I thought I
would look you up.”
    For some reason I felt enormously
surprised to see him standing there. He had
passed so utterly from daily life. This surprise
was certainly not due to Le Bas having altered
in appearance. On the contrary, he looked the
same in all respects: except that he seemed to
have shrunk slightly in size, and to have
developed a kind of deadness I had not
remembered in the texture of his skin. He
stood by the door, as if he had just glanced in to
make sure that no misbehaviour was in
progress, and would proceed immediately on
his way to other rooms in the college, to see
that there, too, all was well. I asked him to sit
down. He came farther into the room, but
appeared unwilling to seat himself; standing in
one of his characteristic poses, holding up both
his hands, one a little above the other, like an
Egyptian god, or figure from the Bayeux
tapestry.
    “How are you getting on, Jenkins?” he
asked, at last agreeing, though with apparent
reluctance, to occupy an arm-chair. “You have
a nice view from here, I see.”
    He rose again, and stared out of the window
for a minute or two, at the place where clouds
had begun to darken the sky. The sound of
undergraduate voices came up from below. Le
Bas turned his gaze down on the passers-by.
    “I expect you know the story of Calverley
throwing pebbles at the Master of Balliol’s
window,” he said. “Just to make him look out
for the benefit of some visitors. Parkinson was
some sort of a connection of Calverley’s, I
believe. I saw Parkinson the other day. In fact I
rowed in a Duffers’ Eight with him. Parkinson
was in your time, wasn’t he? Or am I confusing
dates?”
    “Yes, he was. He only went down from here
last year.”
    “He missed his ‘blue,’ didn’t he?”
    “I think he was only tried out a couple of
times.”
    “Who else is there from my house?”
     “Stringham went down last term.”
     “Went down, did he? Was he sent down?”
     “No, he —”
     “Of course I remember Stringham,” said Le
Bas. “Wrote a shocking hand. Never saw such a
fist. What was he sent down for?”
     “He wasn’t sent down. He got a job with
Donners-Brebner. I am going to see him
tomorrow.”
     “Who else?” insisted Le Bas, who had
evidently never heard of Donners-Brebner.
     “I saw Templer not long ago. He is in the
City now.”
     “Templer?” said Le Bas. “Oh, yes, Templer.
In the City, is he? Did he go up to the
university?”
     “No.”
     “Probably just as well,” said Le Bas. “Still it
might have toned him down a bit. I suppose as
it is he will spend the rest of his life wearing
those startling socks. It was Templer, wasn’t it,
who always wore those dreadful socks?”
     “Yes – it was.”
     “Still, he may grow out of it,” said Le Bas.
     “Or them,” I said; and, since Le Bas did not
smile, added: “I stayed in the same French
family as Widmerpool, the summer after I left.”
     “Ah yes, Widmerpool.”
     Le Bas thought for a long time. He climbed
up on to the fender, and began to lift himself by
t h e edge of the mantelpiece. I thought for a
moment that he might be going to hoist himself
right on to the shelf; perhaps lie there.
     “I    was     never     quite happy about
Widmerpool,” he admitted at last.
     This statement did not seem to require an
answer.
     “As you probably know,” said Le Bas, “there
were jokes about an overcoat in the early
days.”
     “I remember being told something about
it.”
     “Plenty of keenness, but somehow —”
     “He used to train hard.”
     “And a strong – well —” Le Bas seemed
rather at a loss, ending somewhat abruptly with
the words: “Certain moral qualities, admirable
so far as they went, but —”
     I supposed he was thinking of the Akworth
affair, which must have caused him a good deal
of trouble.
     “He seemed to be getting on all right when I
saw him in France.”
     This statement seemed in the main true. “I
am glad to hear it,” said Le Bas. “Very glad. I
hope he will find his level in life. Which college
did you say?”
     “He didn’t go to the university.”
     “What is he going to be?”
     “A solicitor.”
     “Do none of my pupils consider a degree an
advantage in life? I hope you will work hard for
yours.”.
     Facetiously, I held up a copy of Stubbs’s
Charters that happened to be lying at hand on
the table. “Do you know Sillery?” I asked.
     “Sillery? Sillery? Oh, yes, of course I know
Sillery,” Le Bas said; but he did not rise to this
bait. There was a pause.
     “Well, I have enjoyed our talk,” Le Bas said.
“I expect I shall see you on Old Boy Day.”
     He got up from the chair, and stood for a
few seconds, as if undecided whether or not to
bring his visit to an end.
    “Friendships have to be kept up,” he said,
unexpectedly.
    I suppose that his presence had recalled –
though unconsciously – the day of Braddock
alias Thorne; because for some reason,
inexplicable to myself, I said: “Like Heraclitus.”
    Le Bas looked surprised.
    “You know the poem, do you?” he said.
“Yes, I remember you were rather keen on
English.”
    Then he turned and made for the door, still
apparently pondering the questions that this
reference to Heraclitus had aroused in his mind.
Having reached the door, he stopped. There
was evidently some affirmation he found
difficulty in getting out. After several false
starts, he said: “You know, Jenkins, do always
try to remember one thing – it takes all sorts to
make a world.”
    I said that I would try to remember that.
    “Good,” said Le Bas. “You will find it a help.”
    I watched him from the window. He walked
quickly in the direction of the main entrance of
the college: suddenly he turned on his heel and
came back, very slowly, towards my staircase,
at the foot of which he stopped for about a
minute then he moved off again at a moderate
pace in another quarter: finally disappearing
from sight, without leaving any impression of
decision as to his next port of call. The episode
of Braddock alias Thorne, called up by Le Bas’s
visit, took on a more grotesque aspect than
ever, when thought of now. I wondered
whether Le Bas had himself truly accepted his
own last proposition. Nothing in his behaviour
had ever suggested that his chosen principles
were built up on a deep appreciation of the
diversity of human character. On the contrary,
he had always demanded of his pupils certain
easily recognisable conventions of conduct:
though, at the same time, it occurred to me that
the habit of making just such analyses of motive
as this was precisely what Le Bas had a
moment before so delicately deprecated in
myself.
    There are certain people who seem
inextricably linked in life; so that meeting one
acquaintance in the street means that a letter,
without fail, will arrive in a day or two from an
associate involuntarily harnessed to him, or
her, in time. Le Bas’s appearance was one of
those odd preludes that take place, and give, as
it were, dramatic form, to occurrences that
have more than ordinary significance. It is as if
the tempo altered gradually, so that too violent
a change of sensation should not take place; in
this case, that some of the atmosphere of school
should be reconstructed, although only in a
haphazard fashion, as if for an amateur
performance, in order that I should not meet
Stringham in his new surroundings without a
reminder of the circumstances in which we had
first known one another.
    For some reason, during the following day in
London, I found myself thinking all the time of
Le Bas’s visit; although it was long before I
came to look upon such transcendental
manipulation of surrounding figures almost as a
matter of routine. The weather was bad. When
the time came, I was glad to find myself in the
Donners-Brebner building, although the innate
dejection of spirit of that part of London was
augmented by regarding its landscape from this
huge and shapeless edifice, recently built in a
style as wholly without ostensible order as if it
were some vast prehistoric cromlech.
Stringham’s office was on one of the upper
storey s, looking north over the river. It was
dark now outside, and lights were reflected in
the water, from the oppressive and cheerless,
as well as beautiful, riverside. Stringham looked
well: better than I had seen him for a long time.
    “Let’s get out of here,” he said.
    “I’m a bit late.”
    “We’ll have a drink.”
    “Where shall we make for?”
    For a brief second, for an inexpressibly
curtailed efflux of time, so short that its
duration could be appreciated only in
recollection, being immediately engulfed at the
moment of birth, I was conscious of a sensation
I had never before encountered: an awareness
that Stringham was perhaps a trifle
embarrassed. He took a step forward, and
made as if to pat my head, as one who makes
much of an animal.
    “There, there,” he said. “Good dog. Don’t
growl. The fact is I am cutting your date.
Cutting it in slow motion before your eyes.”
    “Well?”
    “It is an absolutely inexcusable thing to do.
I’ve been asked to rather a good party at short
notice – and have to dine and go to a play first.
As the party can hardly fail to be rather fun, I
thought you wouldn’t mind.”
    “Of course not.”
    “An intolerable act, I admit.”
    “Not if it’s a good party.”
    “I thought the thing to do would be for you
to come back and talk while I changed. Then I
could drop you wherever you are going to
dine.”
    “Let’s do that.”
    I could pretend to Stringham that I did not
mind: within, I was exceedingly annoyed. This
was quite unlike him. A rearrangement of plans
would now be necessary. His car was parked
outside. We drove northward.
    “How are things at the old coll.?”
    “Le Bas visited me yesterday.”
    “Our former housemaster?”
    “Braddock alias Thorne.”
    “Good heavens, I had forgotten all about
that.”
    “I wonder if he has?”
    “Did you tell him how it happened?”
    “No.”
    “How extraordinary for him to swim to the
surface.”
    “He asked about you.”
    “No?”
    Stringham was not interested.. Le Bas was
scarcely a memory. I began to realise that
considerable changes had indeed been taking
place.
    “What is it like in London?”
    “I’m rather enjoying myself. You must
come and live here soon.”
    “I suppose I shall in due course.”
    “Can’t you get sent down? No one could
stand three years of university life.”
    We arrived at the house, and, passing
between the pillars of the doorway, collected
drinks in the dining-room. Then we went
upstairs. The place seemed less gloomy than on
my earlier visit. Stringham’s bedroom was a
rather comfortless apartment, looking out on to
the roofs of another row of large houses. “Who
are you dining with?”
    “The Bridgnorths.”
    “Haven’t I seen pictures of a rather
captivating daughter called Lady Peggy
Stepney?”
    “The last photograph was taken at
Newmarket. I’ve been wondering whether it
wasn’t time for her to get married and settle
down,” said Stringham. “I seem to have been a
bachelor an awfully long time.”
    “What does Lady Peggy think about it?”
    “There are indications that she does not
actively dislike me.”
    “Why not, then?”
    We talked in a desultory way, Stringham
walking to and fro, wearing only a stiff shirt,
and some black silk socks, while he washed his
hands and brushed his hair. I did not know how
serious he might be with regard to the
Bridgnorths’ daughter. The idea of one of my
friends getting married had scarcely occurred
to me, even as a possibility. I saw now that such
a thing was not absolutely out of the question.
From time to time a footman appeared, offering
different collars, because Stringham could find
none he liked.
    “I suppose this must be one of Buster’s,” he
said, at last accepting a collar that satisfied him.
“I shall sell the rest of mine off cheap to the
clergy to wear back-to-front.” He slipped on his
tail-coat, pulling at the cuffs of his shirt. “Come
on,” he said; “we’ll have another drink on the
way out.”
    “Where is your dinner-party?”
    “Grosvenor Square. Where shall I drop
you?”
    “Grosvenor Square will do for me.”
    “But what will you do?”
    “Dine with an uncle of mine.”
    “Does he live there?”
    “No – but he isn’t expecting me just yet.”
    “He was expecting you then?”
    “A standing invitation.”
    “So I really haven’t left you too high and
dry?”
    “Not in the least.”
    “You are jolly lucky to have relations you
can drop in on at any time,’” said Stringham.
“My own are much too occupied with their own
affairs to care for that.”
    “You met Uncle Giles once. He suddenly
arrived one night when we were having tea. It
was the day of Peter’s ‘unfortunate incident’.”
    Stringham laughed. He said: “I remember
about Peter, but not about your uncle.”
    We reached the car again, and drove for a
time in silence. “We’ll meet soon,” Stringham
said. “I suppose you are going back to-night –
otherwise we might have lunched tomorrow.”
    “I’ll be up in a week or two.”
    “We will get together then.”
    We had reached Grosvenor Square, and he
slowed up: “Now where?”
    “I’ll climb down here.”
    “I expect it will be a really frightful party,
and Peggy will have decided not to turn up.” He
waved, and I waved, as the car went on to the
far side of the square.
     The evening was decidedly cool, and rain
was halfheartedly falling. I knew now that this
parting was one of those final things that
happen, recurrently, as time passes: until at
last they may be recognised fairly easily as the
close of a period. This was the last I should see
of Stringham for a long time. The path had
suddenly forked. With regret, I accepted the
inevitability     of    circumstance.      Human
relationships flourish and decay, quickly and
silently, so that those concerned scarcely know
how brittle, or how inflexible, the ties that bind
them have become. Lady Bridgnorth, by her
invitation that night, had effortlessly snapped
one of the links – for practical purposes the
main one – between Stringham and myself; just
as the accident in Templer’s car, in a rather
different manner, had removed Templer from
Stringham’s course. A new epoch was opening:
in a sense this night was the final remnant of
life at school.
     I was glad to have remembered Uncle Giles.
It was, I suppose, justification of the family as a
social group that, upon such an occasion, my
uncle’s company seemed to offer a restorative
in the accidental nature of our relationship and
the purely formal regard paid by him to the fact
that I was his nephew. Finding a telephone box,
I looked up the address of the Trouville
Restaurant, which turned out to be in Soho. It
was fairly early in the evening. Passing slowly
through a network of narrow streets, and
travelling some distance, I came at last to the
Trouville. The outside was not inviting. The
restaurant’s façade was boarded up with dull,
reddish shutters. At the door hung a table
d’hôte menu, slipped into a brass frame that
adv er t ised Schweppes’ mineral waters –
Blanchailles – Potage Solférino – Sole Bercy –
Côtelettes d’Agneau Reform – Glace
Néapolitaine – Café. The advertised charge
seemed very reasonable. The immense
de pr e ssion of this soiled, claret-coloured
exterior certainly seemed to meet the case; for
there is always something solemn about
change, even when accepted.
    Within, the room was narrow, and
unnaturally long, with a table each side, one
after another, stretching in perspective into
shadows that hid the service lift: which was set
among palms rising from ornate brass pots. The
emptiness, dim light, silence – and, to some
extent, the smell – created a faintly
ecclesiastical atmosphere; so that the track
between the tables might have been an aisle,
leading, perhaps, to a hidden choir. Uncle Giles
himself, sitting alone at the far end of this place,
bent over a book, had the air of a sleepy
worshipper, waiting for the next service to
begin. He did not look specially pleased to see
me, and not at all surprised. “You’re a bit late,”
he said. “So I started.” It had not occurred to
him that I should do otherwise than come
straight up to London, so soon as informed that
there was an opportunity to see him again. He
put his book face-downwards on the tablecloth.
I saw that it was called Some Things That
Matter. We discussed the Trust until it was
time to catch my train.

				
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